“Body counts are completely irrelevant”: H.R. McMaster, the new National Security Advisor

h-r-mcmaster

This was originally posted on CounterCurrents and has been re-posted here. A worthy article on this McMaster which I did not include is here.

On February 20, President Trump appointed Lt. General Herbert Raymond “H.R.” McMaster to serve as the next National Security Advisor. The corporate media, along with numerous Congressional Republicans, praised the decision, calling McMaster a “soldier-scholar and creative thinker” (AP), a “straight-talking, military strategist” (BBC), a “military strategist” (New York Times), “…smart, intense and fiercely outspoken” (Washington Post), and a military strategist (The Hill). Other media declared that he engaged in independent thinking (ABC News), was a “huge innovator” (Boston Herald), was a military intellectual (NPR), was a “warrior scholar” (Politico), not a “yes man” (Bloomberg), was the “smartest and most capable officer of his generation” (CNN), and an intellectual who could “get through” to Trump (Slate). Years earlier, this same media, followed by liberal outlets, would praise McMaster as a “creative strategist” (Slate), “pre-eminent warrior-thinker” (Time) and of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2014 as a person to lead the US’s “future force” in wars. While this surface analysis is to be expected, it doesn’t say who McMaster is, or even if his appointment is meant to appease Russophobes, but puts him up on a pedestal to be admired.

McMaster is a man with wide-ranging military experience, meaning that he has been deeply involved in Mideast wars since the 1990s. He was a fellow of the Hoover Institution (2002-2003), a neoconservative “public policy research center” closely aligned with other such foundations like the defunct Project for a New American Century. On his profile, it described how he commanded troops in the US and Germany, served at the National Training Center, along with in the “first” Iraq War (1990) and “Second” Iraq War (2003), along with gaining numerous medals, holds a PhD in American History, was formerly part of the elite Council on Foreign Relations, and currently serves as part of the Cold War establishment think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

During the recent phase of the 20-year Iraq War (1991-2011), before it started up again later in Obama’s term, he was one of the top advisers on fighting the Iraqi insurgency, a person elaborated for “successfully” crushing the resistance in Tal Afar in 2005, declaring “body counts are completely irrelevant” in order to achieve “victory.” Later, in 2007, he was part of an “elite team of officers advising US commander General David Petraeus in Baghdad.”

The words and positions of McMaster are worth noting, as he will be dictating the imperial policy of the United States. In his 1997 book, Dereliction of Duty, praised by the complaint media across the board, he declares that the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the 1960s did not give “unvarnished military advice to President Lyndon B. Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara” as they went into the Vietnam War,  but even in his “comprehensive, balanced and relentless exploration of the specific role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff” as the New York Times puts it, he “displays some of the same ethnocentrism, the same assumption of American omnipotence,” that he criticizes the Chiefs for, meaning that he leaves out, of course, “ideas, plans and actions of the Vietnamese.” Not surprisingly, this “thoughtful” book was recommended across the Pentagon.

In later years, while McMaster slammed the idea of “easy war” and that military leaders should end the idea that “high-tech weapons and a “minimalist” commitment of forces can solve conflicts.” What this implies is that he favors heavier conflict, in terms of engaging in more bombing. In a 2002 paper he made the same claims, saying that he should not assume that the US will have “information superiority and dominant battlespace knowledge” over the enemy, that high-tech gadgets should still be emphasized, even if they can’t win wars, and that objectives of any war should be well-defined. In the same paper, he shows his Cold Warrior thinking by declaring that the years of 1989 to 1991 watershed in US “national security policy” with events removing the US from Cold War, with welcome changes once war was over but also uncertainty with the end of, as he puts it predictably, the “Soviet Empire.”

In 2012, the Wall Street Journal released an interview with “warrior-scholar” McMaster, in which he declared his allegiance to the imperial war in Afghanistan. He says that the US needs to consolidate their “gains” in the war, while admitting how much the psychological and political dimensions of warfare fascinate him. He also is clearly a major advocate of the counterinsurgency strategy used in Iraq and Afghanistan, while saying there is deep corruption in Afghanistan, praising the Strategic Partnership Agreement (which continues the US imperial occupation there until 2024), praises efforts by “small teams of Special Forces” and is angered by Afghan media which are “wholly captured and run, or owned by hostile organizations or entities.”

McMaster, with his military institutionalist mindset, clearly forgets that the war in Afghanistan is a losing proposition. In 2012, Rolling Stone released an 84 page report by Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis, a long time US Army veteran, which declared that “senior ranking US military leaders” had distorted the truth about the conditions on the ground in Afghanistan, damaging US credibility and pursuing a strategy which is an “abysmal failure,” with rising violence. Additionally, McMaster’s characterization of the Taliban as a “criminal organization” that engages in “mass murder of innocent people, and…[is] the largest narcotics-trafficking organization in the world…murderous, nihilistic, irreligious people,” could mostly be applied to the US war machine itself.

With these beliefs, it is worrisome that McMaster has Trump’s ear. He almost sounds like Trump when he declared that “we will defeat” today’s “enemies” (“the terrorists”), notes a “humanitarian catastrophe of colossal scale” in the Mideast, and worries about the “warrior ethos” being under threat. McMaster’s appointment shows that Trump is dedicated to the use of Special Ops (“legendary warriors”) across the world, that the Afghan war will continue, and that drone strikes will continue unabated, all signs that the US military will expand its tentacles of terror across this blue planet.

The immigrant proletariat, the Muslim ban, and the capitalist class

Editor’s note: This piece was originally written on February 1, 2017 so it is outdated in some respects, but broadly still valid. This is reposted from Dissident Voice.

The Trump administration has dug in its heels, declaring that the 90-day (for now) Muslim ban on refugees, from seven predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia), enshrined in a January 27th executive order, is just “extreme vetting” and that the media is engaging in “false reporting.” In contrast, hundreds of diplomats have criticized the travel ban, top Democrats have criticized the ban while Republicans like Paul Ryan have said it necessary to protect the “homeland.” Also Jewish groups, over six thousand academics, varying UN agencies, and pro-refugee groups have criticized Trump’s action, along with protests in airports across the country, while immigrants have suffered with more crackdowns to come.

Numerous companies and CEOs have put out critical statements about Trump’s order. This included the top executives of Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, Airbnb, Box, GE, Lyft, Uber (later on), Koch Industries, TripAdvisor, SpaceX/Tesla Motors, JPMorganCase, and Goldman Sachs, most of whom pledged to help their own employees directly affected. [1] Others that spoke out on the ban included the head of the Internet Association, an industry trade group for the Internet industry, with some investors, like Chris Sacca, sending thousands of dollars to the ACLU, just like Lyft, Tim Cook of Apple declaring that “Apple would not exist without immigration, let alone thrive and innovate the way we do” and Twitter mirroring this by saying “Twitter is built by immigrants of all religions. We stand for and with them, always.” [2] Some exploited the misery of the order by trying to help their bottom line: Airbnb said that it would “provide free housing to detainees and travelers” affected and Starbucks is planning to hire 10,000 refugees “over five years in the 75 countries where it does business,” starting with those people who “have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel.” [3] What seems clear is that the actions of Trump may have crossed a “red line” as Hunter Walk, a partner at the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Homebrew VC, told the Washington Post, indicating possible anti-Trump action by Silicon Valley in the future, as more companies realize it is a “bigger risk to their investors and bottom line to stay quiet than it is to protest Trump’s ban on refugees and travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, betting vocal opposition to the executive order scores them a moral and fiscal victory.” [4]

Such statements mean that the one group that remains constant in opposition to the racist executive order is a sect of the capitalist class. While the recent lawsuits filed in Darweesh v. Trump, Aziz v. Trump, Doe v. Trump, Sarsour v. Trump, San Francisco v. Trump, Louhghalam et al v. Trump, have mainly made constitutional arguments against the racist immigration ban, one suit revealed more about the interests of the capitalist class, especially those in the tech industry. This lawsuit, filed by the Attorney General of the State of Washington, Bob Ferguson, and joined by Expedia and Amazon, among other companies, declared the following, showing how this industry depends on immigrants:

Immigration is an important economic driver in Washington. Many workers in Washington’s technology industry are immigrants, and many of those immigrant workers are from Muslim-majority countries. Immigrant and refugee-owned businesses employ 140,000 people in Washington. Many companies in Washington are dependent on foreign workers to operate and grow their businesses. The technology industry relies heavily on the H-1B visa program through which highly skilled workers like software engineers are permitted to work in the United States. Washington ranks ninth in the U.S. by number of applications for high-tech visas. Microsoft, a corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, is the State’s top employer of high-tech—or H-1B visa holders and employs nearly 5,000 people through the program. Other Washington-based companies, including Amazon, Expedia, and Starbucks, employ thousands of H-1B visa holders. The market for highly skilled workers and leaders in the technology industry is extremely competitive. Changes to U.S. immigration policy that restrict the flow of people may inhibit these companies’ ability to adequately staff their research and development efforts and recruit talent from overseas. If recruiting efforts are less successful, these companies’ abilities to develop and deliver successful products and services may be adversely affected Microsoft’s U.S. workforce is heavily dependent on immigrants and guest workers. At least 76 employees at Microsoft are citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen and hold U.S. temporary work visas. There may be other employees with permanent-resident status or green cards. These employees may be banned from re-entering the U.S. if they travel overseas or to the company’s offices in Vancouver, British Columbia. Seattle-based company Amazon also employs workers from every corner of the world. Amazon’s employees, dependents of employees, and candidates for employment with Amazon have been impacted by the Executive Order that is the subject of this Complaint. Amazon has advised such employees currently in the United States to refrain from travel outside the United States. Bellevue-based company Expedia operates a domestic and foreign travel business. At the time of this filing, Expedia has approximately 1,000 customers with existing flight reservations in or out of the United. States who hold passports from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, or Yemen. The Executive Order will restrict business, increase business costs, and impact current employees and customers.

Such a section comprises six paragraphs of Washington State’s argument against the immigration order, a section that the lawsuit depends on to be successful. Immigrants are clearly vital to the tech industry. Of the 250,000 Muslims living in the San Francisco Bay Area, who are mostly of Arab or South Asian descent, many of them work at “companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft.” [5] These immigrants are seen as “essential” to the growth of Silicon Valley, with 37 percent of workers in the area being foreign-born, with immigrants creating “some of America’s biggest tech companies,” like Yahoo, Apple, or Google, and allowing them to survive (and “boom”), since they rely on “talent from abroad to fill positions and to meet their global ambitions.” [6] After all, the “superstars of the high-tech industry are all immigrants” as one article points out.

Since immigrants account for a “significant part of the workforce in the tech industry,” the industry has advocated for looser laws to “increase the flow of skilled immigrants into the U.S.” and is heavily reliant on the H-1B visa program. The program, which started in 2000 with bipartisan support, “allows software engineers and other skilled workers to work in the U.S.,” resulting in their active role in the political arena to push for looser immigration restrictions. [7] Hence, Silicon Valley is afraid of the upcoming immigration restrictions during the Trump administration. This is especially the case since Trump has reportedly drafted an executive order to overhaul the H-1B visa program, which companies depend on so they can “hire tens of thousands of employees each year,” the “talent” they need to thrive, with their support of Trump basically non-existent in the recent presidential campaign. [8]

By the mid-1990s, those who live in the Valley divided “along racial and economic lines” with older and wealthier whites “concentrated in the west Valley,” Latinos have fanned across the floor of the valley, with many of the immigrants poor, bringing with them “crowding and new welfare burdens,” a division that angers many Latinos. [9] In recent years, the immigrant community which undergirds Silicon Valley has been in trouble. [10] With immigrant youth comprising a major portion of “both the population and the workforce in the Silicon Valley,” the Valley had “deep disparities when it comes to the lives of undocumented immigrants,” with such youth facing barriers in accessing education, concentrated in low-wage jobs, and serving as a diverse and “core part of the Silicon Valley community.” Immigrants from the Asian continent, whether Chinese, Filipino, or otherwise, form, as of April 2015, the “largest racial block in Santa Clara County, exceeding the proportion of non-Hispanic white residents for the first time.”

Despite such dependence on immigrants, the tech industry does not treat these employees fairly or justly. One academic report in 2012 says that the stated reasons of the tech industry (lack of study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), rapid technological change, and needing to hire best and brightest workers for “innovations” to occur) cannot be confirmed upon close inspection, leaving cheap labor as “the remaining explanatory factor.” The report goes on to say that legal loopholes allow for foreign workers to be unpaid drastically compared to American-born workers, with many of the workers coming from India, China, and the Philippines, along with other Asian immigrants, comprising from 50-80% of the workforce of top technology companies, with the tech industry claiming a “labor shortage” and lack of talent, although this cannot be supported by existing data. Interestingly, even the conservative media scoffs at the claims of the tech industry, with arch-conservative National Review declaring that work permits “are basically de facto green cards and give the foreign national complete flexibility in the job market” and that the visa program will hurt the middle class (not sure if that’s true) while the similarly aligned FrontPage Magazine questioned the shortage of “high-skilled American labor,” saying that the visa program provides “a supply of lower-wage guest workers.” [11] Of course, they oppose the claims for anti-immigrant reasons and don’t really care about the well-being of immigrant workers in the United States.

Mistreatment of immigrants in Silicon Valley is nothing new. There is no doubt that high-skilled immigrant workers “are being exploited by employers,” with the H1-B visa program benefiting the corporate bottom line, especially providing protection against unions and labor strikes, but hurting the workers. The program itself gives employers great power over workers, allowing them to “hire and fire workers…grant legal immigration status…[or] deport the worker” if they don’t do what they like. In 2014 Wired magazine reported on a study showing that major tech companies (ex: Cisco, Apple, Verizon, Microsoft, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and Google) have pocketed wages and benefits from workers, especially among new Indian immigrants to the Valley, leading to an “ecosystem of fear” in the area among the workforce. The tech companies collectively withheld at least $29.7 million from such workers, forcing them to pay fees they shouldn’t have to pay, creating a form of indentured servitude, as some called it, where there exists an “underground system of financial bondage by stealing wages and benefits, even suing workers who quit,” making “business and profit by having cheap labor” as one worker put it. [12] This shows that the tech companies are, in their own way, engaging in a form of organized crime against the immigrant proletariat. Such crimes are only part of their business model which includes top Silicon Valley CEOs conspiring in wage-fixing to drive down the wages of 100,000 engineers, ultimately involving one million employees in all.

With the exploitation of the immigrant proletariat, mainly those that are “high-skilled,” by the tech industry, this explains the harsh opposition from Silicon Valley to Trump’s executive order. Without the visa program, the industry would likely collapse or at least be weakened. As for other industries, immigrants are employed in jobs across the US economy, even as they face similar constraints to the native-born poor along with restrictions related to their citizenship status, especially in cities like New York. As a result, it can be said that immigrants ultimately benefit the US economy, even those that are undocumented, and are not a drag on the “native-born” section of the working class, making the country a better place for all, as even free-marketeers and libertarians would admit. [13] This is important to point out with nativists getting a new lease on life under the Trump administration.

As we stand now, the authoritarianism of the Obama administration has increased under Trump’s nightmarish state in regards to immigrants, Muslims killed by drone bombing, and violence supported by the murderous empire across the world, among much more. While we should undoubtedly be critical of bourgeois liberals and bourgeois progressives who claim to have the “answers” and solution to fighting Trump, rejecting their pleas to move the capitalist Democratic Party “more left” to fight the “bad Republicans,” there is no reason to sit idly by. We must get involved in pushing for revolutionary politics by at minimum engaging in actions that show solidarity with the immigrant proletariat, whether documented or undocumented, in the United States. In the end, perhaps we should heed what Homer Simpson declared about immigrants all those years ago:

Most of here were born in America. We take this country for granted. Not immigrants like Apu [who immigrated from India and on a green card], while the rest of are drinking ourselves stupid, they’re driving the cabs that get us home safely. They’re writing the operas that entertain us everyday. They’re training out tigers and kicking our extra points. These people are the glue that holds together the gears of our society. [14]

 

Notes

[1] Nathan Bomey, “Elon Musk to seek CEO consensus on changes to Trump immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Fredreka Schouten, “Koch network slams Trump immigrant ban,” USA Today, Jan. 29, 2017; Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017. As Elon Musk (of Tesla Motors and SpaceX) tried to “seek a consensus” among fellow business CEOs who were affected with the order and trying to work with Trump, Uber changed course from crossing a picket line and profiting from the misery, to condemning Trump’s action as impacting “many innocent people” and the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, declaring “I’ve…never shied away…from fighting for what’s right,” even as they continue their horrid practices with exploitation of their workforce.

[2] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017.

[3] Jill Disis, “Starbucks pledges to hire 10,000 refugees,” CNNMoney, Jan. 29, 2017

[4] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017; David Pierson, “Facing Trump’s immigration ban, corporations can’t risk keeping silent,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 31, 2017; John Ribeiro, “US tech industry says immigration order affects their operations,” CIO, Jan. 29, 2017; Anthony Cuthbertson, “How Silicon Valley Is Fighting Back Against Trump’s Immigration Ban,” Newsweek, Jan. 30, 2017;

Eric Newcomer, “Silicon Valley Finds Its Voice as Immigration Ban Fuels Outrage,” Bloomberg Technology, Jan. 30, 2017; PCMag staff, “Here’s What Silicon Valley Is Saying About Trump’s Immigration Ban,” PC magazine, Jan. 29, 2017; Matt Richtel, “Tech Recruiting Clashes With Immigration Rules,” New York Times, Apr. 11, 2009. On the subject of US-Mexico migration some companies have tried to get on the game as well: an Israeli company said they will help build the “great wall” on the US-Mexico border.

[5] Brian Fung and Tracy Jan, “Tech firms recall employees to U.S., denounce Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017.

[6] John Blackstone, “Tech industry, fueled by immigrants, protesting Trump’s travel ban,” CBS News, Jan. 31, 2017; Kerry Flynn, “Immigrants have built America’s tech industry,” Mashable, Jan. 31, 2017; Carmel Lobello, “The tech industry’s case for immigration reform,” The Week, June 2, 2013; Sarah McBride, “One quarter of U.S. tech start-ups founded by an immigrant: study,” Reuters, Oct. 2, 2012. Even a Forbes contributor, David Shaywitz,” said that immigrants are an “inextricable part of the valley’s cultural fabric and a vital element of its innovative potential.”

[7] Jessica Guynn and Laura Mandaro, “Microsoft, Uber, Apple, Google: How the tech world responded to Trump’s immigration ban,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017; Katie Benner, “Obama, Immigration and Silicon Valley,” BloombergView, Jan. 22, 2015; Gregory Ferenstein, “No Exceptions For Tech Industry: High Skilled Visas Now Tied To Comprehensive Reform,” TechCrunch, Dec. 1, 2012; Stephen Moore, “Immigration Reform Means More High-Tech Jobs,” CATO Institute, Sept. 24, 1998; Jessica Leber, “Silicon Valley Fights for Immigrant Talent,” MIT Technology Review, July 26, 2013; Amit Paka, “How Legal Immigration Failed Silicon Valley,” TechCrunch, Sept. 7, 2015.

[8] Peter Elstrom and Saritha Rai, “Trump’s Next Immigration Move to Hit Closer to Home for Tech,” Bloomberg News, Jan. 30, 2017; Gretel Kauffman, “How Trump’s immigration stances could affect the tech industry,” Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 20, 2016; David Z. Morris, “Tech Industry Could be “First to Suffer” From Trump’s Immigration Stances,” Fortune, Nov 19, 2016; Salvador Rodriguez, “Why Tech Companies Need Immigrants to Function,” Inc, Jan. 30, 2017; Paresh Dave and Tracey Lien, “Trump’s shocking victory could squeeze Silicon Valley on immigration and trade,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 9, 2016; David Jones, “Silicon Valley Up in Arms Over Proposed H-1B Overhaul,” E-Commerce Times, Jan. 31, 2017; Marisa Kendall, “Trump poised to overhaul H-1B visas relied on by Silicon Valley tech,” Mercury News, Jan. 31, 2017; Hansi Lo Wang, “In Silicon Valley, Immigrants Toast Their Way To The Top,” NPR News, Apr. 19, 2014; Marie-Astrid Langer, “Silicon Valley Wants High-Skilled Immigration on Campaign Agenda,” Wall Street Journal, Sept. 18, 2015.

[9] Andrew Murr, “Immigrants In The Valley,” Newsweek, Dec. 25, 1994.

[10] Some immigrants are doing well however. Even by 1998, one study found that “Chinese and Indian immigrants were running a quarter of the high-tech businesses in Silicon Valley, collectively accounting for more than $16.8 billion in sales and over 58,000 jobs.”

[11] Ian Smith, “Obama Games the Visa System to Lower Wages and Please the Tech Industry,” National Review, September 30, 2015; Arnold Ahlert, “The Tech Industry’s Immigration Lies,” FrontPage Magazine, April 2, 2014.

[12] The report shows that most of those who are the “well educated, highly skilled and specialized foreign workers” accepted under the H1-B Visa program are from China, India, the Philippines, and South Korea, with thousands of other petitions accepted from the United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, France, Pakistan, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Nepal, Venezuela, Colombia, Italy, Russia, and Spain, among other countries.

[13] H.A. Goodman, “Illegal immigrants benefit the U.S. economy,” The Hill, Apr. 23, 2014; Rowena Lindsay, “How immigration helps the US economy: Report,” Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 24, 2016; Ted Hesson, “Why American Cities Are Fighting to Attract Immigrants,” The Atlantic, Jul. 21, 2015; Daniel Griswold, “Immigrants Have Enriched American Culture and Enhanced Our Influence in the World,” Insight (CATO Institute publication), Feb. 18, 2002; Rohit Arora, “Three Reasons Why Immigrants Help the U.S. Economy,” Inc, Feb. 24, 2015; Timothy Kaine, “The Economic Effect Of Immigration,” Hoover Institution, Feb. 17, 2015; Sean Hackbarth, “Immigrants are Good for the Economy,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Dec. 5, 2014; A. Barton Hinkle, “Immigration Is Good for the U.S. Economy,” Reason, Jul. 21, 2014; Minyoung Park, “The vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the US are here working: BAML,” Yahoo! News, Jul. 21, 2016.

[14] This speech is made by Homer near the end of the Simpsons episode, Much Apu About Nothing (Season 7, episode 23, May 1996) when Homer has the realization that the measure that would deport immigrants from Springfield, proposition 24, proposed by the loyal mayor, Joe Quimby, to distract from the “bear tax” to pay for the worthless “Bear Patrol” is wrong. Regardless, the measure passes anyway, with 95% approval, and Homer declares that democracy “doesn’t work” while all of the immigrants have gained citizenship (after passing the citizenship test), except for Groundskeeper Willie, who goes on a ship back to Scotland.

Has The US Corporate Media Become “Adversarial”?

Editor’s note: Originally posted on CounterCurrents on February 18 but I did not find it until yesterday. The aspects in the article were compiled on February 17, I believe, so some of the stories cited are dated, but the ideas of the post are still valid. There actually were mentions of Trump’s use of the term “legendary warriors” in the Washington Post, Washington Times, and Washington Examiner, but only the latter actually interpreted his remarks, saying that he was talking about “U.S. special operation commandos.”

With President Donald Trump’s claims of the “dishonest media” and “fake news” at his recent press conference, and liberals defending the corporate media as a “watchdog,” the reality of the situation is hard to determine. Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines adversarial as “of or characterized by opposition, disagreement, hostility” and watchdog as “a person or group that keeps watch to prevent waste, unethical practices.” Using those definitions, I looked at the US corporate media garnering the most praise by liberals currently, apart from any Fox affiliate which is pro-Trump.

I look at CNN’s website, and there are stories about Trump’s recent press conference, ousted National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, Trump issuing a new immigration order, the border wall, a “Russian spy ship” off Connecticut, and the liberal sketch comedy show, SNL. As I look at MSNBC’s website, it isn’t much different. Other than obviously promoting their TV shows, the stories range from Trump’s admission to a wrong claim about the Electoral College, why Kellyanne Conway isn’t booked on Morning Joe, an interview with Rep. Elijah Cummings, and Netanyahu on the two-state solution. Other stories include Chuck Todd declaring that Trump has an “anti-media” stance, an interview with Rep. Seth Moulton saying that Trump is a “serial liar,” a GOP senator defending Trump, Congress removing an Obama gun law, resistance against Trump’s deportations, and Susan Sarandon on Trump. NBC News has a similar feel. There are stories about Mike Flynn, Trump’s Muslim immigration ban, Trump’s EPA pick Scott Pruitt, ICE startling lawmakers, the Congressional Black Caucus, anti-Muslim groups, “the Russians” according to US officials, immigrants in the United States, and Trump’s new labor pick, Alexander Acosta. Additionally, a number of MSNBC stories are reprinted on NBC News’s website.

CBS News and ABC News aren’t any better. CBS News has a story on Trump’s “achievements,” Trump’s lie about Electoral College numbers, Mattis speaking with Russian counterparts, Flynn’s replacement turning down the job, Trump asking a black reporter about the Congressional Black Caucus, and Trump blaming the media for the Flynn firing. Stories also focus on the pro-immigrant protest across the country, “Day Without Immigrants,” Elijah Cummings wanting to meet Trump, Trump overturning a coal mining debris law, Nikki Haley on the two state solution, and the Russian “spy ship.” As for Disney-owned ABC News, the stories are about the same. They focus on Trump’s recent press conference, a new immigration order to be issued by Trump, the “Russian spy ship,” Acosta’s nomination by Trump, rise of hate groups across the country, undocumented immigrants, the “Day Without Immigrants,” Russian spies and the White House, and Trump’s “battle with the press,” Other stories include the vital role of immigrants in the US economy and the House GOP considering an investigation into leaks which discredited Flynn.

The Washington Post and New York Times might be seen as reputable by some but looking at their stories, this is thrown into question. The Post has stories about Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador, Flynn’s replacement turning down the offer, Trump family lifestyle, Trump’s recent news conference, federal immigration raids, EPA nominee Scott Pruitt, House GOP plan to eliminate Obamacare, and possible review of US intelligence agencies discarded. Other stories focus on depleted uranium used by the Pentagon, ICE detention, and many more. The New York Times, often called “The Grey Lady,” now days,  is not any better. Its top stories include Trump’s recent press conference, the 2 state solution, Trump’s new pick for labor secretary, Flynn’s replacement turns down the job, EPA nominee Scott Pruitt, and GOP plan to replace Obamacare. Other articles focus on powers of border agents, claims of a “deep state” in the US, the “Day Without Immigrants,” bookstores resisting Trump, and a number of other subjects.

All in all, none of these stories fulfill the “adversarial” or “watchdog” role the corporate media is claimed to have. Trump thinks that the media is “too tough” on him, which a third of Americans agree with, however, the media’s realm of criticism covers very small area. For one, the corporate media has not challenged Trump on his obfuscation over Afghanistan. Trump recently, in a call with Afghani President Ashraf Ghani, seemed to advocate a continuation of the war, by pledging to continue to implement the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement, signed in 2012. The agreement declares that Afghanistan is a “NATO ally” and that US forces will be in the country until 2024 in order to fight “al-Qaeda and its affiliates,” among other aspects. By advocating for the continuation of this agreement, Trump is also supporting, by extension, the Bilateral Security Agreement, signed in 2013. This agreement, in force until 2024, declares that U.S. military operations “to defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates may be appropriate in the common fight against terrorism,” allows US forces to control certain facilities and areas within the country, frees US vehicles, vessels, and airplanes from “inspection, regulation, or registration requirements,” exempts US military contractors from certain requirements, and exempts US forces from paying taxes or other charges, to name a few aspects.

There were no stories challenging the Trumpian views of Iran, Cuba, or Venezuela, largely because the media agrees with them, as those countries are seen as “enemies” of the empire. Of course there were no stories on Trump’s endorsement of Special Forces across the world. Earlier this month he called them “legendary warriors” engaged in the “most secret, sensitive and daring missions,” showing that the golden age of the “gray zone,” started under Obama, will continue. There were also no stories, except in progressive media, about the implications of Trump’s pro-cop and anti-Black Lives Matter executive orders.

While it is right to call out Trump’s lies, deceptions, and deceit, the corporate media is largely ignoring many of his policy maneuvers. Instead, it is better to engage in solidarity with countries under attack by US imperialism and resist Trump’s fascist moves, especially when it comes to anti-immigrant and pro-cop measures, but not get caught up in the supposed Trump-Russia “connection.”

Trump’s strategy to fight ISIS: more imperialism?

This comes from a recent article by Whitney in CounterPunch.
This comes from a recent article by Whitney in CounterPunch.

While the bourgeois media is focused on Trump’s racist immigration ban, something has been missed by these complaint media outlets. I’m not talking about the five year lobbying ban (which may not be fully enforced) or the negotiating with Big Pharma to “bring down” drug prices (which just seems like an elaborate nothingness) but rather the long-awaited strategy of Trump to fight ISIS which has “arrived” on our doorstep.

A memorandum, published on January 28, declares a “Plan to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” Apart from the preamble which paints ISIS as a horrid, brutalistic, and barbarian organization, the short memo says that “it is the policy of the United States that ISIS be defeated” (section 1) with the policy coordination, review, guidance, and other aspects of this memo described elsewhere (section 2). The document referenced in section 2 is one issued the same day, a document that reshuffles the organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council. It declares that the National Security Advisor and Homeland Security Advisor will determine the agenda of each of these committees, headed by Trump (or Pence in his place), with regular attendees including the Secretaries of Defense, Energy, State, and Treasury, the Attorney General, and US Ambassador to the United Nations, along with allowing, depending on the issue at hand, the Secretary of Commerce, US Trade Representative, and National Intelligence Director Without getting into any more detail, this memo could be said to engage in a major overhaul of the upper echelons of the National Security apparatus in the United States.

The document outlining the anti-ISIS “Plan” goes on, saying that a “new plan to defeat ISIS (the Plan)” will be developed “immediately” with the Secretary of Defense writing a draft. This draft will be, within a month, submitted to Trump, comprising “a comprehensive strategy and plans for the defeat of ISIS…recommended changes to any United States rules of engagement and other United States policy restrictions…public diplomacy, information operations, and cyber strategies to isolate and delegitimize ISIS…identification of new coalition partners in the fight against ISIS…mechanisms to cut off or seize ISIS’s financial support…[and] a detailed strategy to robustly fund the Plan.” The memo ends by saying that the Secretaries of Defense, State, Treasury, and Homeland Security, along with the Director of National Intelligence (DIA), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor, and Homeland Security Advisor, will develop the plan, compiling all the relevant information, and seeking any further information from “any appropriate source,” likely even right-wing and bigoted ones.

The two memos issued on January 28 don’t exactly outline the actions that the Trump Administration to “fight ISIS,” only proposing possible avenues. One way to tell how the policy will unfold in the coming months is to look at who will be developing the plan: Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, DIA Dan Coats, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford. If Mnuchin, Bosser, and Coats are confirmed, working with Tillerson and others, then the policy will involve working with NATO, working with regional US imperial proxy states like Jordan, and continued support for the Saudi bombing in Yemen. Beyond this, the formulated policy would likely include a push for more markets, “ground troops” in countries like Syria, striking at “Islamist terrorism” with Islamophobic policy, and a continued war in Afghanistan. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story.

Recent actions shine a light on how the possible strategy will unfold. Raids by US special forces will continue as part of national policy, along with drone strikes, to fight ISIS and any group deemed as “radical Islamic terrorists,” the new code words for the “enemy” in this era. While some thought that the recent raid in Yemen, which the Trump administration justified even though dozens of civilians were killed, including young children, would result in the government there stopping such strikes, this does not seem to be the case at all. Such raids may even bolster Al-Qaeda, though in saying this one should not be caught in the idea of “blowback” which many bourgeois progressives use as a reason for why the bombing is “bad.” Simply, Trump has revealed himself to be a war criminal, there’s no other way to put it.

As Nick Turse wrote on January 5, on the eve of the Trump Administration, we live in, as a result of the Obama presidency, a “gray zone,” a time when there is a “murky twilight between war and peace,” a time when elite troops were deployed in 138 countries across the world last year, with deployments across the African continent and ringing China, Russia, and Iran. For what we know so far, especially from his recent speech in which he called SOCOM‘s troops “legendary warriors” who engage in “the most secret, sensitive and daring missions in defense of the United States of America” with no enemy standing “a chance against our Special Forces — not even a chance.” Additionally, it seems evident that this horrid reality, coupled with private mercenaries for hire, will continue full force under Trump’s watch.

In terms of seeking “new coalition partners” to fight ISIS, there is a possibility these new partners would include Russia or maybe even Syria, the army of which is advancing in their fight against Western-backed terrorists. However, cooperation with Syria may be too optimistic since “safe zones” still seem to be on the mind of Trump. A Reuters report, on January 29, said that Trump and King Salaman of Saudi Arabia agreed to mutually “agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen,” purportedly for refugees. As anyone with sense knows, this is just a dressed up version of no-fly-zones and expanded US imperialism in the Syrian Arab Republic. In terms of safe zones in Yemen, this implies continued US support for the Saudi aggression in Yemen, which has, already, killed over 11,000 people, and destroyed much of the country, including its vital infrastructure. There is no doubt that that Trump administration will ally with Gulf autocracies such as the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar, along with Yemen of course.

In the same Reuters report, it said that the White House agreed to work with Saudi Arabia to counter “Iran’s destabilizing regional activities” and debating if the Muslim Brotherhood should be deemed a terrorist organization by the US, then subject to sanctions. Clearly, on the issue of Iran, fundamentally little will change from Obama under the Trump administration. Sure, the agreement on Iran’s non-existent nuclear program will go away and Western mega-corporations will lose out on the “new” market in Iran, but the aggressive feelings of the United States toward the Islamic Republic will not go away. This much was indicated when National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, in a “muscular” response, declared that recent Iranian actions “underscore…Iran’s destabilizing behavior,” saying that the missile launch violates UN Security Council Resolution 2231, claimed that the Iranians backed the Houthi forces in Yemen, and said that the Obama Administration was “weak and ineffective” in responding to “Tehran’s malign actions” but that the Trump Administration will condemn “such actions by Iran that undermine security, prosperity, and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East and place American lives at risk,” with this stance meaning that they are “officially putting Iran on notice.”

After the recent immigration ban, under which Trump gave the Saudis a free pass, which will likely harm the US, there have been calls to ban Americans from Iran, which will lead to continued aggression of an imperial nature. This also means that Saudi funding of terrorists in Syria (and across the region) may also get a pass, which would show the continuation of policy from Obama to Trump. Additionally, it seems very evident that war may be in the cards, with Trump directly threatening Iran, and possible war with Iran in the cards.

Other articles recent add to this, noting that more threats and sanctions (also see here) are being used against Iran by the United States (which could inflame the region), with the Trump Administration wanting to contain Iran, with Russia (and China for that matter) standing on the side of Iran in this war of words and actions. Iran is also preparing itself for self-defense if need be with new military equipment and other measures (also see here) while a Trump cabinet pick paid by MKO terrorists, Iran stands against partition of Iraq, and Iranian army commanders seeing the threats as nonsense, as they defy the United States to the best of their ability.

It is worth quoting what Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution said in a recent speech:

“The new U.S. president says Iran should thank Obama! Why?! Should we thank him for creating ISIS, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Syria, or the blatant support for the 2009 sedition in Iran? He was the president who imposed paralyzing sanctions on the Iranian nation; of course, he did not achieve what he desired. No enemy can ever paralyze the Iranian nation…Trump says fear me! No. The Iranian nation…will show others what kind of stance the nation of Iran takes when threatened. We actually thank this new president [Trump]! We thank him, because he made it easier for us to reveal the real face of the United States. What we have been saying, for over thirty years, about political, economic, moral, and social corruption within the U.S. ruling establishment, he came out and exposed during the election campaigns and after the elections. Now, with everything he is doing—handcuffing a child as young as 5 at an airport—he is showing the reality of American human rights. The incident of the February 8, 1979 [referring to the day that the Army Air Force began its allegiance with Imam Khomeini (Homafaran Allegiance) and about the final days of the Iranian revolution] was unexpected for the regime and a blessing from God we were not counting upon. An unexpected provision should be hoped for in anything that the believing front does: it is true that logical and material calculations are necessary, but sometimes we should open up to counting on the supernatural too…if we use wisdom and prudence along with trusting the Satan, the result will be a mirage. In any matter, including diplomacy and the country’s problems it is true that trusting demons and the materialistic power, which oppose your essence, leads to a mirage.”

James Petras, a Marxist who seems to take the side of Trump, even said, in a recent piece, that Trump will continue the murderous reign of the empire. While he praised Trump for his seeming “protectionism” and certain “critiques,” Petras admitted that Trump ignores “the enormous regional economic and military power of Iran” and has proposed to “re-negotiate the recent six-nation agreement with Iran in order to improve the US side of the bargain” possibly to placate Israel, and then said that “Trump will most probably maintain, but not expand, Obama’s military encirclement of China’s maritime boundaries which threaten its vital shipping routes.” Petras, who describes Trump as a “market realist who recognizes that military conquest is costly and…losing economic proposition for the US” who views “Russia as a potential economic partner and military ally” and sees China as a “powerful economic competitor,” said that Trump is a “capitalist-nationalist, a market-imperialist and political realist.” Still, he seems unsure about what will happen next in his administration.

Of course, Petras is not seeing through the smoke of “economic nationalism” of Trump, which is tied with his anti-worker nature and racist imperialism. While there is no doubt that Trump is different than Obama in his actions or behavior, on US imperial foreign policy, to say the least, it is clear that Trump will support the Zionist project in Israel and US imperialism worldwide in his own patented way, even if that includes playing both sides of the “anti-ISIS war.” Hence, all of Trump’s “critiques” of elites are worthless junk not worth paying attention to since he will benefit the capitalist elites, already infusing his advisors with Goldman Sachs, engaging in a “globalism of the 1%” which supports empire and buttressing Islamophobia, making it national policy. Of course, he will also not oppose continued militarization of the country (and world) and expansion of the security apparatus, coupled with mass surveillance. Hence, it is accurate to describe Trump as a president who has “openly exhibited racist, nativist, sexist, arch-authoritarian, police-statist, Islamophobic, pro-torture, and even neo-fascist sentiments and values.”

Where the murderous empire goes next is clear. While countries like the Philippines are plying the double game by claiming to resist the United States but also crack down on communist forces and allow US troops in the country, China is rising more so on the world stage. The latter will hopefully pose as a possible counter to the horrid (and racist) imperialism that will spew out of the Trump administration like left over trash falling out of a garbage truck, policies that leave destruction in their wake.Perhaps Chinese media has a point in saying that “the court,” “the media,” “the public,” “domestic and international politics,” and the “economy” could  keep Trump in check, but they might be believing too much in those elements.

Those who think that Trump will change US policy, be anti-interventionist, or end the slew of wars, are dead wrong. As he declared in a speech just a couple of days ago, he said, following typical dogma, said that the US military is “fighting for our security and freedom,” while also saying that “defense of our nation” is important to him, at least in his mind, that the military will never be “forgotten” by the Trump administration (i.e. it will get more money), and that the US strongly supports NATO. In his speech, he declared that SOCOM and Central Command will be the “very center of out fight against radical Islamic terrorism,” saying that more focus will be placed not only on Central Asia, the Middle East, and Egypt, but across the world. He also declared to the “forces of destruction” by which he means ISIS, Al Qaeda, and “associated forces,” that “America and its allies will defeat you.  We will defeat them,” while saying, as typical militaristic boilerplate, but also showing his loyalty to the war machine, that the “men and women of the United States military provide the strength to bring peace to our troubled, troubled times.”

It seems obvious that the military will expand, with Trump acting as a bully for Western capitalists to gain new markets, using his “twitter diplomacy” and imperial might, along with other “tools” at his disposal. Cuba, the DPRK, and China will remain under imperialist assault. Zimbabwe and Venezuela likely will as well. In the end, one must cast off any illusions about Trump, recognizing his racist and imperialist nature, while rejecting the arguments of bourgeois liberals and progressives who do not challenge the fundamental nature of the murderous empire.

“Our country is in deep trouble”: Trump’s fast-moving authoritarianism

Based off a Mr. Robot quote by Angela Moss, but also applying to horrid Trump of course.
Based off a Mr. Robot quote by Angela Moss, but also applying to horrid Trump of course.

In November 2015, in a campaign ad quoted by Wikiquote, Trump declared that “our country is in deep trouble because let’s face it: politics are all talk and no action…I don’t disappoint people, I produce.” These same words can easily (and reflexively) apply to his presidency at the present, only nine days old at the writing of this article. I know this could get outdated very quickly, but that doesn’t concern me at all. I could have added more analysis here I guess, but I think this is a good stab at what has happened so far. This is basically almost like a stream of consciousness, so pardon me if I missed something along the way.

Before January 20

In order to recognize the reality, it is best to provide some context, which goes beyond the likely policies of his administration or Obama’s legacy. Frank Newport, the CEO of Gallup, one of the firms that publishes polls for the interest of PR peoples across the United States, not the general populace of course, declared on December 20 that

“the U.S. president is the CEO of the government…the government will soon become President-elect Donald Trump’s biggest responsibility. This is no minor challenge…Trump has appointed high-level business and military executives to his Cabinet posts, individuals who presumably have experience in making large organizations work well. Only time will tell how effective they can be in using this expertise to affect the operations of massive federal bureaucracies…Trump’s most important governmental challenge, in my view, will be dealing with the public’s basic lack of confidence in the men and women they elect and send to Washington to represent them…Trump’s best course of action may be to move in a positive direction — attempting to work with Congress, cooperating in a rational way, getting things done and in general helping convince Americans that the legislative branch can actually work.”

Not surprisingly, Newport does not expand on this analogy whatsoever. If the President of the United States is the CEO of the government, then the board of directors is the capitalist class, not just Wall Street, and the “people” of the United States are the shareholders, who really don’t have a vote or voice unless they hold a large amount of shares (i.e. big campaign contributors). Hence, Trump, or any president, is managing the affairs of the country for the capitalist elite, not engaging in his own policy. While the capitalist class would have preferred Killary of course, they can adapt and work with Trump easily, no doubt.

Trump’s management of the country won’t be easy in the sense that he could incur popular resentment. As another Gallup poll earlier this year noted, while most of those in the US think that “the country is on the wrong track,” there are also divisions between views of former Clinton and Trump backers, but there is also agreement on high healthcare costs, the “threat” of Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons, worries of loss of US world leadership, that the US should be the “world’s top military power,” opposition to “building a wall along the border with Mexico,” favoring legalization of marijuana, “favoring the death penalty,” critical of more gun control measures, and even agreement on gay marriage to an extent. Still, public opinion can be manipulated no doubt, even if he doesn’t “like tweeting” or the differing sources of election news for Trump and Clinton voters, so he may have no trouble after all.

In the days before Trump’s inauguration, an event which is a spectacle for every President, Obama made some “last minute” actions, some of which were symbolic. Due to public pressure and likely to give himself a “good” legacy (despite the fact that his legacy is actually atrocious), he pardoned transgender whistleblower Chelsea Manning  and Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera, along with a number of nonviolent drug offenders. [1] Of course, many political prisoners are still locked behind bars and his action was symbolic as it did not challenge or undermine the reality of mass incarceration in the United States as a whole but instead contributed to an image of Obama as a “hero” or “savior.” It worth saying however that if Manning’s sentence had not been reduced, Trump likely would have extended the sentence and left her in prison for life, with the head of the military, Ash Carter opposing this move from what I’ve read.

As the days toward inauguration neared, the signs of “change” became clear. Fewer people said they would watch the Trump inauguration, with lower numbers likely coming from distraught bourgeois liberals and progressives along with those angry at the US capitalist system, and more than before, people said they were satisfied with immigration levels into the US which actually may not be a bad thing. And finally, a report was released saying that Trump and his team were aiming for dramatic cuts in the Departments of State, Justice, and Education, along with other social programs while growing the budget of the Pentagon. Not only does this show that those who thought that Trump was non-interventionist, like the libertarian goofs at Antiwar.com, are wrong, but it shows that he is playing a key role in the coming years of capitalism in the United States. Such a report indicates that cuts on social spending will increase, aggressive imperial posturing (and wars) will spike, and ordinary people will suffer.

In order to indicate the events of the Trump Administration so far, it is best to break down the events day by day since the Trumpster is acting very quickly indeed.

Day One: January 20

On the day of his inauguration, Trump made a speech written by two of his closest advisors: white supremacist and bigot Steve Bannon and anti-immigrant political operative Stephen Miller, which set a tone for dark days ahead. On the streets, some were rightfully restless, with smashing of windows “of a Starbucks and Bank of America in Washington, DC.” [2] While some may criticize these actions as counter-productive or that we should be “peaceful,” it is clear that they are a justified form of resistance in a society that values capitalist property so highly.

With the media focusing on that, they clearly passed over Trump’s first executive order, which targeted Obamacare, in preparation for legislation to ultimately repeal it. While the law is absolutely horrid, leading to a growth of underinsurance in the United States which had not been there before and benefits pharmaceutical and health insurance companies, the GOP replacement for this law will likely make conditions worse. Of course, Democrats are not pushing for universal healthcare at this stage but instead are clinging to their sacred cow of Obamacare.

Also, the same day, the US Senate pushed through three of Trump’s appointees. One of them was only approved to go forward, while John Kelly for Secretary of Homeland Security and James Mattis for “Defense” Secretary were passed with overwhelming supermajorities, indicating yet again that the Democrats are not an opposition party, but are easily falling in line.

There is one more aspect to note about the events of January 20. On that day, Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, was interviewed by a site which declares that “the tendency to view Latin America and the Caribbean in isolation of world policy and under the shadow of U.S. hegemony is anachronistic,” as noted by Libya 360 a few days later. In the interview, with the imperialist news outlet almost handing him the answers, Tillerson declared that the US would continue cooperating with Mexico on “important issues of common interest,” endorsed the imperialistic Plan Colombia,” thought that a “calamity that has befallen Venezuela” as a product of “its incompetent and dysfunctional government-first under Hugo Chavez, and…Nicolas Maduro,” arguing that there should be a “negotiated transition to democratic rule in Venezuela.” This not only gives an indication of continuation of US-backed coups in the region but a continuation of US policy. Beyond this, Tillerson said that he would “denounce the Maduro government’s undemocratic practices,” engage with Cuba but “reform of its oppressive regime” by supporting supposed “human rights defenders and democracy activists,” promote TV and Radio Marti, work to extradite Assata Shakur to the US, try to “mobilize international support to share the burden of U.S. assistance for Haiti,” and enforce “all congressionally-mandated sanctions including the measures in the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Extension Act of 2016,” along with much more.

Five days before, one article in the bourgeois liberal Huffington Post, written by those who want to privatize state organs in Venezuela, argued that Tillerson had a troubled relationship with the country. [3] They wrote that “ExxonMobil’s history in Venezuela starts in 1921,” that Venezuela’s ties to the company were “severed in 1976, when president Carlos Andres Pérez sought to nationalise the oil industry” and were “reestablished in the 1990s” but then ended in 2007 when Hugo Chavez re-nationalized “the oil business” under the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA. The article went on to say that ExxonMobil, then under Tillerson’s leadership (since the year before), won an arbitration decision by the World Bank to “compensate ExxonMobil $US1.6 billion” and that when “ExxonMobil launched oil operations off the coast of neighbouring Guyana,” the Venezuelan government not surprisingly, and rightly so, accused the horrid oil company of “trying to destabilise the region by siding with Guyana.” The article ends by saying that while “Tillerson and ExxonMobil have been against economic sanctions as international policy,” the current relationship with Venezuela could lead to increased sanctions, maybe even including “severing diplomatic relations or suspending or significantly reducing Venezuelan oil purchases” but that another possibility is that Tillerson would “compel Venezuela to honour its international financial commitments” and privatize its oil (and other) “unproductive industries” (in the minds of the writers).

Day Two: January 21

On this day, the second day of the Trump Administration, the opposition began to come to more fruition, giving hope for the future, maybe (unlikely though). There were clearly mixed ideologies among the millions joining women’s marches that day, but of course, anti-imperialism from the marchers was absent. Some may be right that such marches were “a watershed mark in American activist history” and that “the list of speakers was impressive and widely divergent” but that “tone and militancy of marches in other areas were mixed.” However, I think, it had more problems that that and was almost a “Farce on Washington” like the famed 1963 March on Washington, as Malcolm X put it, with saying that everyone should be “nonviolent” not defending themselves with force. I think there could be some change and the movement could separate from the Democrats, I also think it will dissipate and not go on an independent path. But we’ll see.

The same day, apart from an article showing how connected the Obama Foundation was to the capitalist class, Trump gave a speech to the spooks at the CIA. In a speech which was first reprinted by the UK tabloid, The Daily Mirror, was boastful but also telling on what Trump won’t change. In the speech, which of course was praised by Trump himself and by CIA apologist David Ignatius, calling the CIA “very, very special people,” saying that “we have to get rid of ISIS.  Have to get rid of ISIS.  We have no choice,” praising his team, while saying that the Senate will get through all the intelligence and military appointments “through, but some will take a little bit longer than others.” There’s need to even quote anything else in the speech other than noting that Trump being arrogant while praising the military and CIA as “important” and “special,” not changing their current role in the imperial structure of the United States, saying that he is behind the CIA “1,000 percent” and that he respects them. The fact that his first real speech, was to the CIA, apart from the inaugural speech which is usually worthless listening to or reading in any way, shape or form, is significant and should be noted.

Day Three: January 22

On the same day that hundreds protested in Northern Italy against a US military base, media in East Asia decried the “isolationist” nature of Trump, fearing possible diplomatic turmoil. Such concerns, of course, are not unfounded due to the increasing aggression the Trump Administration has shown to China as I noted in my post about his “diplomacy” late last year. On this day, the libertarian Antiwar.com folks declared that there had been the first US drone strikes under Trump. This was also confirmed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which has noted four confirmed drone strikes, some engaged in even without Presidential approval. Further strikes were noted on January 25 and numerous days before. So the global assassination program is not ending, clearly. Yet another set of powers that Obama literally handed to Trump.

The same day, Trump had a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-wing extremist who rules the murderous (and Zionist) state of Israel. They spoke, as a readout of the call noted, on “ways to advance and strengthen the U.S.-Israel special relationship, and security and stability in the Middle East,” including consulting “on a range of regional issues, including addressing the threats posed by Iran” and promising Netanyahu that the US will have an “unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security.” Of course, Netanyahu would praise Trump’s push for a border wall, as both him and Trump are engaging in racist policy and are right-wing reactionaries. [4] It is worth considering the horrid settlements Trump is supporting in the “West Bank,” a region given that name as it is the area West of the Jordan River that the state of Jordan has claimed in the past.

Day Four: January 23

On this day of the Trump Administration, he fulfilled one of his key promises during the presidential campaign. He issued a memorandum which withdrew the US from TPP. While some complained that “foes of war should rejoice and congratulate Trump” but didn’t do so, this seems silly because to “give credit where credit is due,” it is better to thank the grassroots movement and numerous individuals across the spectrum against the deal which Trump was responding to, rather than thanking Trump for killing the agreement. There is no doubt there was “imperial aspects of the TPP” but this aspect has been replaced by aggressiveness toward China. While Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary has been more cautious and less hawkish than Tillerson who outwardly pushed for imperialism, he did say that “The U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there [in the South China Sea]. It’s a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.” [5] Some have noting that Tillerson and Spicer’s comments imply US military action or a naval blockade against “China’s growing naval fleets would risk dangerous escalation.” [6]

Beyond this imperial aggressiveness, the Trumpster enforced his ideological supporters. He restricted abortions, with more official sanction to “pro-life,” more accurately anti-abortion sentiment, than before. The same day, Trump ended the mortgage rate cuts, which the National Realtors Association was not happy about whatsoever, saying it will hurt homeowners. If that wasn’t enough, the US Senate approved another one of Trump’s nominees 66-32-1, Mike Pompeo, to be the head of the CIA. As a reminder, Pompeo supports NSA surveillance, opposes the current “Iran deal,” wants the CIA’s “black site” prisons to come back, and wants the Guantanamo Prison to stay open.

The only other news that day was about Trump’s approval rating, mainly. Some sources said that he had a low approval rating coming into office, while others noting that Trump’s positions broadly do not “resonate with majority public opinion on a number of his most visible policy and issue positions” except in his “direct attack on the federal government itself.” Another worthwhile poll is a Pew Research Center survey finding that “65% of Americans give priority to developing alternative energy sources” while only 27% “would emphasize expanded production of fossil fuel sources.” Other than this, some wondered, considering Trump’s focus on Cuba and Mexico, how much of Obama’s “soft” coups that Trump’s admin will continue. It is also worth mentioning Trump’s other memorandums that day and staying the course with military appointments.

Day Five: January 24

On this day, the Trump administration took a hard stand against environmentalism. Apart from a memorandum “streamlining regulations,” the Trumpster passed memos that approved the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) for now, declaring that TransCanada can resubmit its application to the Keystone XL pipeline, and declaring that all new pipelines have to use materials from within the United States. The memo on DAPL received the most attention, with some saying that it clearly benefits billionaires who funded him and others saying that it violates indigenous law clearly. As for the Keystone XL pipeline which is barreling ahead more than under Obama’s deceptive “rejection” of it, seemingly under pressure from the environmental movement and bourgeois environmentalists, resubmitted its application for the pipeline which is likely to be approved.

Beyond Trump’s pro-business and anti-environmental moves, he reinforced imperial inter-relationships. In a readout of a call with Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, Trump declared that “the United States considers India a true friend and partner in addressing challenges around the world” and continued this imperialistic relationship, obviously as a way to ensure “security in the region of South and Central Asia” which means countering the influence of China in the region, while maintaining the sphere of influence of the murderous US empire. Also on the foreign policy front, Nikki Haley was confirmed by the US Senate in a 96-4 vote in which only four senators voted against, showing once again the milquetoast nature of the Democratic Party in relation to Trump.

On another topic entirely, Trump reinforced his ideological supporters and economic nationalism (some of which is likely a put on). He met with big automakers, from General Motors, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler, telling them to create factories in the US and saying he would change environmental regulations to make them more business-friendly. [7] Interestingly, “foreign automakers such as Toyota and Honda were not invited” which may indicate where his interests lie and which companies will be benefited by corporate subsidies and which will not in the years to come. In terms of ideological supporters, the Trump Administration declared support for a bill to end federal funding to abortion completely. This goes a different way than Obama, but is worth noting that Obama supported abstinence-only education in Africa up to at least 2013, if not later. [8]

Day Six: January 25

The authoritarianism of Trump’s administration began to show even quicker than it did under Obama, of course. In one executive order, it declared that it would be administration policy to crack down on sanctuary cities (called “sanctuary jurisdictions” in the order) for undocumented immigrants, that such immigrants would have to be removed, and that 10,000 new immigration officers would need to be hired. The order also put sanctions on individuals from numerous countries and, to to continue the racist, anti-immigrant measures, an office on immigrant crimes was established, tasked with producing quarterly reports on “the effects of the victimization by criminal aliens present in the United States,” along with engaging in surveillance and data gathering on immigrants.

To give even more specifics of the order, in section 12, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State work together to implement sanctions, with the Secretary of State specifically ensuring that “diplomatic efforts and negotiations with foreign states include as a condition precedent the acceptance by those foreign states of their nationals who are subject to removal from the United States.” Like his other executive orders, the specifics are shrouded in legalistic language. The specific provision of law, available here and here  says that the Attorney General is the person who determines that if an “alien who is a citizen, subject, national, or resident” of a certain country is banned, with the Secretary of State ordering “consular officers in that foreign country to discontinue granting immigrant visas or nonimmigrant visas, or both, to citizens, subjects, nationals, and residents of that country” until the Attorney General let the Secretary know if “the country has accepted the alien.” Basically, this implies that such refugees or immigrants would be detention until they can be fully deported.

This executive order was only the beginning. The same day Trump declared that the US-Mexico border wall will be built, he declared that sanctuary cities would be stripped of funding. The same day, the New York Times claimed that “Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen” were listed in draft executive order, but the exact law cited, which was Division O, Title II, Section 203 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, only lists the Iraq and Syria, along with “any other country or area of concern.” [9] Clearly, this means that this draft would only apply to Iraq and Syria, meaning that mentioning Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen is just guesswork.

It is worth also mentioning that the draft of the order, apart from obvious “Muslim Ban,” as it is accurately called, creates “safe zones” in Syria. However, considering this was not on the final order, which will be noted later in this article, but it is in consideration. This means that “safe zones” which are obviously just code for a no-fly-zone and increased US imperialist intervention in Syria are under consideration by those in the highest parts of the Trump Administration. This is not a good sign and it would not be a surprise if something like the “safe zones” surfaces again at some point.

Even more disturbing is the draft executive order of Trump to review the use of CIA “black prisons” overseas. [10] The order declares that the US needs “critical intelligence” on “developing threats” and that it was wrong for Obama to push for civilian trials for those at Gitmo. Even more than that, it says that the push to “close” it should end, military commissions should return, and Gitmo should remain open. If that isn’t enough, the order complains that the CIA is limited in maintaining an “effective and lawful interrogation program” by NDAA in 2016 and revokes executive orders 13491 and 13492 while reinstating executive order 13440. This means that E.O. 13491 which pushed for “lawful interrogations” and E.O. order which ordered the closure of Gitmo are taken away while E.O. 13440, a Bush order in 2007, allowing only limited compliance with the Geneva Convention among those captives captured by the CIA and held in extrajudicial detention. If this isn’t enough, this draft order declares that keeping Gitmo open is critical to fight “radical Islamists” across the world, says that the US remains in global conflict with ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and “associated forces” across the world (a continuation of language of the Obama era) and says that any existing transfer efforts out of Gitmo will be removed. The order ends by saying that the DIA director, Attorney General, CIA director, and other senior members will recommend if interrogation of “high-value” terrorists should be reopened, if “black sites” of the CIA should reopen, if executive order 13440 should be revised, and recommend how “enemy combatants detained in the armed conflict with violent Islamic extremists” should be tried swiftly and justly. It then claims that no one will suffer cruel or unusual punishment, which seems silly with such torture chambers revived.

The weirdest part about this order is that is was basically denounced by the Trump Administration. First of all, it was blasted by Rand Paul and John McCain, while other Republicans took a “wait and see” approach. [11] However, reportedly, the order “shocked” Mattis & Pompeo, with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, saying he didn’t know where it came from. [12] Now, this could be denial just for the case of denial. At the same time, they could also be covering their tracks and bring back the order at an “opportune” time. If the order is not a statement of administrative policy, then who would draft this and why? I don’t know.

As for immigrants, they took even more of the brunt on January 25, just like on other days. One article said that Trump basically called for concentration camps for immigrants while the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), a bourgeois group as I have previously described, declared that Trump’s Muslim ban is “real and even more draconian than many anticipated,” saying that it it is “written in such a broad manner that it may also prohibit dual nationals of those countries who are citizens of non-targeted countries from entering the U.S. on a visa.”

More directly, Trump issued another immigration-related executive order, which was as racist as his previous pronouncements. In order to understand it, it is best to look at specific sections. One section, section 7, declares that the Secretary of Homeland Security will “take appropriate action, consistent with the requirements of section 1232 of title 8, United States Code, to ensure that aliens described in section 235(b)(2)(C) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(2)(C)) are returned to the territory from which they came pending a formal removal proceeding.” Once again, this is legalistic language, and needs to be broken down. The section of US code referenced talks about “treatment of aliens arriving from contiguous territory,” saying that immigrants arriving on land from a foreign country “contiguous to the United States,” like Canada or Mexico, can be returned by the Attorney General to the country “pending a proceeding.” Going further from there, in the case of an immigrant (called “alien” throughout the code) who is applying for admission to the US, if an “examining immigration officer” determines that an immigrant seeking to enter the US is “not clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to be admitted,” then they are detained. If this happens, then an immigration judge conducts proceedings, with determination whether the immigrant is deported, with such a judge having the power to “administer oaths, receive evidence, and interrogate, examine, and cross-examine the alien and any witnesses,” even to issue “subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and presentation of evidence” if need be. Such powers of a judge may seem fundamentally undemocratic, but apparently it is allowed. The judge also has the ability to “sanction by civil money penalty any action (or inaction) in contempt of the judge’s proper exercise of authority under this Act,” meaning that an immigrant can be sanctioned for not following “proper procedures” or accused of not following them, then fined. The proceeding for the immigrant can take place either in person, through a video or telephone conference, and the immigrant can be represented by a lawyer of their choosing, who can “examine the evidence” against the immigrant, present evidence on their behalf, and cross-examine witnesses. However, immigrants do not have the right to “examine such national security information” used to justify their deportation, which almost dooms the immigrant to losing their case. After this is all done, then the immigration judge decides whether the immigrant is to be deported, with their decision based “only on the evidence produced at the hearing” and the immigrant will have access to their visa or entry document, or otherwise which is “not considered by the Attorney General to be confidential.”

The US code goes on. Other sections of related code say that any immigrant claimed to have a “communicable disease of public health significance,” who has a “physical or mental disorder” which “threatens” others, a “drug abuser or addict,” who wants to enter the US, will be denied on the spot! Now, if that doesn’t sound racist, I don’t know what is. The last section of code I’ll reference here is one about “classes of Deportable Aliens.” saying that immigrants can be deported if they: (1) overstay their VISA, (2) fail to maintain their “nonimmigrant status,” (3) are convicted “of a crime involving moral turpitude” committed within five or ten years depending on their status, (4) if they are convicted of a crime with a sentence of more than one year, (5) if they are convicted of “two or more crimes involving moral turpitude,” (6) if they violate supposedly (or in reality) any drug laws, (7) if they are a “drug abuser or addict,” (8) if they sell, purchase, or exchange “any weapon, part, or accessory which is a firearm or destructive device,” (9) if they are convicted of “domestic violence…stalking…child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment,” (10) if they lie to immigration authorities, (11) if they engage in any “activity to violate any law of the United States relating to espionage or sabotage,” (12) if they engage in “any other criminal activity which endangers public safety or national security,” (13) if they engage in an activity opposing the control or advocating “overthrow of, the Government of the United States by force, violence, or other unlawful means,” among many other aspects. Apart from some of these measures, like #13 being anti-communist, others of these measures, even if you agreed with them, are part of a racist immigration system aimed at Latin American immigrants clearly, especially with crimes like “moral turpitude” (link here) which can be so broadly defined as it can mean something that isn’t “socially acceptable.” It is also worth noting here that an immigrant owning a gun, which is justified under the Second Amendment as the “right to bear arms” is a deportable offense, saying that immigrants, under law do not have the legal right to defend themselves with force and showing that gun control is again used as a form of social control like I noted in my previous post.

On January 25, there were many other developments. A National Security Advisor was announced by the Trump administration, Trump promoted a positive image of himself, personal propaganda on the official White House website (a shocker, not really), and guidance on Trump’s federal hiring freeze was released publicly. If that wasn’t enough, news media reported that Steve Bannon was registered in two places which says that maybe the “major investigation” into voter fraud that Trump wants should begin in his own administration, and Trump seemingly backing away from efforts to scrub climate change information from EPA websites even as “political appointees are exerting more oversight over the agency’s scientific communications.” [13] Other news worth noting is that Ben Carson, a person who believes that the housing market should be deregulation, was approved by a Senate committee, even by bourgeois progressives like Elizabeth Warren who apparently believed in his lies and that the millions of dollars John Kerry handed to the Palestinian Authority (was it just a PR stunt?) was canceled by Trump, with Kerry’s action seeming very last minute.

Day Seven: January 26

On this day, the war of the Trump Administration with the media took another step forward. Steve Bannon, the White House Chief Strategist declared that because of the election result, “the media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.” [14] He went on to say that “the elite media got it [the presidential election] dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong…[the election was] a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away, that will always be there. The mainstream media has not fired or terminated anyone associated with following our campaign. Look at the Twitter feeds of those people: They were outright activists of the Clinton campaign…That’s why you have no power. You were humiliated.” He was also quoted as saying that “you’re [the media are] the opposition party. Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party” with Bannon citing The New York Times and Washington Post, saying that “the paper of record for our beloved republic, The New York Times, should be absolutely ashamed and humiliated. They got it 100 percent wrong.”

While I am critical of the bourgeois media, I don’t think what Bannon is saying should be brushed off so easily. There is no doubt that much of this media favored Clinton over Trump, some predicting that Trump would lose. However, to say that the media is the “opposition party” and to be so opposed to the press in the manner he is acting is utterly authoritarian, there is no doubt. While restricting newspapers in socialist countries and those under US imperialist attack is justified, in this case, it is dangerous. I’m no fan of the Washington Post or New York Times, but to restrict media from covering the Trump Administration means that all we will get is Trump propaganda, allowing no sort of room for opposition to his reactionary, right-wing nature. I do think it is interesting that he says that the media are the opposition party, not the Democrats, as it shows he recognizes that the Democrats are milquetoast and not really resisting Trump. On that, he is definitely right. Otherwise, I worry about his anti-press rhetoric not because of my belief in the “free speech” of the First Amendment which has never been “free” and should never be fully “free,” with the ability of such speech dictated by one’s social class in US capitalist society, but the fact that it will limit the information flow from the Trumpster and his goons of destruction.

Again there was more about Trump’s anti-immigrant policy. Reuters claimed that they had seen a “draft executive order” which would “block the entry of refugees from war-torn Syria and suspend the entry of any immigrants from Muslim-majority Middle Eastern and African countries Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen while permanent rules are studied.” [15] Coming days would prove if this was true or not. What was clearly true was the payment of the expanded border wall with a 20% tariff on Mexico. One article noted that Republicans support the 20% tariff on Mexico, called a “border adjustment,” but major retailers oppose it. [16] The same article said that such retailers argued that it would drive up consumer prices and violate WTO rules, the former which is more of a valid concern than the latter. Steve Horn of DeSmogBlog argued that the wall would grease the way for a “handful of gas pipelines proposed to cross the U.S. border into Mexico, several of them owned by Keystone XL builder TransCanada and another one owned by Dakota Access pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners,” sending fracking gas south of the border, but that if the 20% tariff passes, then the volume of oil from Mexico to the US could rise. Horn also argued that this proposal has “split the oil refining and oil-producing sectors, with producers supportive and refiners critical of the tax scheme” with companies like American Fuels and Petrochemical Manufacturers and Koch Industries against it, and Rex Tillerson for the measure, with Goldman Sachs mildly for it.

The other news of that day was not any better. Trump declared national school choice week showing that he endorses school privatization (continuing the anti-public education policy of Obama), the impact of the anti-Obamacare order was explicated. Shockingly, one poll, released the same day said that almost half of Americans think that there are “some circumstances under which the use of torture is acceptable in U.S. anti-terrorism efforts.” Luckily there was also resistance to Trump, brewing. Raul Castro, like many in Latin America, is wary and not trusting of Trump, which is part of the reason he told Trump to respect Cuban sovereignty (and also to protect the island from imperialist assault. One article in Consortium News, argued that Trump was continuing to lie and disdain the truth, so that people think it is true, with the consequence of this action leading to “an ill-informed constituency, incapable of engaging in the kind of well-informed debate that serves as a check against ill-advised foreign policies and can muster solid support for well-advised ones.” Of course, such a development should be criticized. Finally there was a new poll saying that Trump fared poorly with the public, claimed that few supported the border wall, many wanted Trump to “fully divest from his business interests” and few with a “favorable opinion of Russia” or of Putin reportedly.

Day Eight: January 27

Statements of imperial policy became even clearer on January 27. Mattis, the new head of the Pentagon, declared that the US would continue to be committed to the NATO alliance, citing that importance of Germany as a US base, and that NATO is important to fight against terrorism. [17] The same day Mattis also told the Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, that he had “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.” Such statements are not a surprise since Trump declared the same day to the Pentagon’s top brass that the military should be bulked-up, even as he “pointed to expensive programs,” calling for an increased “military campaign against the Islamic State,” likely expanding the “about 6,000 military personnel in Iraq and Syria, including trainers, advisers and special operators.” [18]

In terms of foreign policy, more imperial inter-relationships were reinforced. In the first press conference of Trump’s presidency, it was clear that May, the first foreign leader to meet Trump in the Oval Office, wanted to discuss “post-Brexit trade opportunities” with him, while the British government made it clear that Britain was still a “fully engaged member of the European Union.” What more comes of this will only be known in the days ahead.

Beyond this, it as clear that other relationships were supported. This included support for the existing one with Australia and possibly an improved relationship with Mexico though these is unlikely. Before moving onto the horrendous executive order, it is worth noting that since 2012, net flow of migration from Mexico decreased, with people who were “fleeing gang-related violence spiraling out of control in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala,” with stricter enforcement of “immigration laws and greatly expanded its use of deportations” by Obama. [19] Along with more Asian immigrants recently who are “well educated and as such compete with a different set of Americans for jobs, but also contribute to faster-growing sectors of the American economy.”

With this background it is worth discussing the horrid executive order. The Guardian described the order as a “draconian shift in US policy,”says that the action would close “US borders to refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis in war-torn Syria,” with a de facto ban of those across North Africa and Middle East, with “a 90-day block on entry to the US from citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia” and runs counter to the principle in the US Constitution of discrimination on basis of religion, with Trump saying that he would elevate “persecuted Christians in the Middle East and North Africa” above Muslims. [20] The article also noted that Republicans were embraced the order, while “Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi…invoked dramatic images of a sorrowful Statue of Liberty” and the pro-Syrian war Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said they would challenge the order with a lawsuit.

Beyond The Guardian’s quibs is the text of the executive order itself. The order says, in section 2, that US policy is to protect US citizens “from foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks in the United States; and to prevent the admission of foreign nationals who intend to exploit United States immigration laws for malevolent purposes.” The following section said that the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, along with the Director of National Intelligence, conducting a review to determine information needed from any country to determine “that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.” The section adds that all of those individuals will then submit to the President “report on the results of the review” within 30 days of the order, with reducing investigative burdens during the review “to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals.” Trump declared that “the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from [certain] countries…would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order.” After that, the Secretary of State requests that all foreign governments “start providing such information regarding their nationals within 60 days of notification,” and after this expires, then the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State would submit to the President a list of different countries that were “recommended for inclusion on a Presidential proclamation,” with such secretaries submitting “the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment.”

The specific law referenced in section 3 of the executive order notes two specific countries: Iraq and Syria, but also says that it can include those from

“a country that is designated by the Secretary of State…a country, the government of which has repeatedly provided support of acts of international terrorism; or any other country or area of concern designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security.”

The law adds that by Feb. 16, 2017, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence determines whether other countries will be part of the ban, with the Secretary considering

“whether the presence of an alien in the country or area increases the likelihood that the alien is a credible threat to the national security of the United States…whether a foreign terrorist organization has a significant presence in the country or area; and…whether the country or area is a safe haven for terrorists.”

If this is taken to its fullest extent, then it would imply that people could ultimately be banned, if the executive order was expanded, from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, and Mauritania, Tunisia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Senegal, India, Somalia, Uzbekistan, and the Philippines. [21]

Getting back to the executive order, the DIA director, Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, FBI director, in section 4, would be told to implement a program which will identify those individuals “seeking to enter the United States on a fraudulent basis with the intent to cause harm, or who are at risk of causing harm subsequent to their admission,” which they would report on within 60 days, then again within 100 days, and another report within 200 days. Section 5 of the order than declares that the Secretary of State would “suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days,” with the “entry of nationals of Syria as refugees” suspended until the program is improved so that Syrian refugees can be admitted in a way “consistent with the national interest,” that there can only be 50,000 refugees entering “in fiscal year 2017,” that Secretaries of State and Homeland Security can jointly “determine to admit individuals to the United States as refugees on a case-by-case basis.” Then section 6 says that Secretaries of State and Homeland Security, along with Attorney General, might rescind certain authority, and section 7 says that the Secretary of Homeland Security would “expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States,” another racist measure, with reports every 180 days until the horrid system is “fully deployed and operational.” Also, the Secretary of State, is told in section 8, to suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program, while requiring “that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions,” while expanding the Consular Fellows Program in part by “substantially increasing the number of Fellows, lengthening or making permanent the period of service.”

To end the discussion of the order, section 9 and 10 need a some attention. Section 9 says that the Secretary of State will “review all nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements to ensure that they are, with respect to each visa classification” and section 10 says that the Secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General, will collect and publicly display “information regarding the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been charged with terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; convicted of terrorism-related offenses while in the United States; or removed from the United States based on terrorism-related activity, affiliation, or material support to a terrorism-related organization, or any other national security reasons.” Yet again, this is meant to attack immigrants in a racist and bigoted way which fuels those anti-immigrant organizations on the right-wing that already exist. Other than this, in the order, sections 11 and 12 are basically boilerplate, as is section 1.

There are a number of other aspects of January 27 worth noting. For one, Trump reinforced his “economic nationalism” by meeting with business leaders from across the US to improve manufacturing which make the capitalist class smile with glee. Also, it is worth noting that Trump signed his bigoted executive order on the SAME DAY as Holocaust remembrance day, which shows how insensitive and disgusting he is. Additionally, the “pro-life”/“right to life,” actually anti-abortion, received official sanction as Pence addressed their rally in DC on the behest of Trump. Pence then declared that

“we will not grow weary. We will not rest, until we restore a culture of life in America for ourselves and our posterity…next week President Donald Trump will announce a Supreme Court nominee who will uphold the God-given liberty enshrined in our Constitution in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia…Life is winning again in America. That is evident in…the historic election of a president…who I proudly say stands for the right to life.” [22]

Of course, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, addressed the crowd too, saying that “yes, I am pro-life…This is a new day, a new dawn, for life…[the right to life] is not a choice. It is God-given…This is a time of incredible promise for the pro-life, pro-adoption movement. We hear you. We see you. We respect you. And we look forward to working with you.” It seems that with anti-abortion to gain such official sanction is dangerous as it hurts any effort to advance reproductive rights, and hurts impoverished women, whether cisgender, transgender, or otherwise.

The same day there were a number of news releases. One was a poll showing that many of those in the US still support Obamacare, many are concerned about health insurance convergence, many oppose cutting federal funding to Planned Parenthood by a large martin, even among Republicans, only 31% think that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, with everyone else thinking it should be legal in all or most cases, and 70% support Roe v. Wade. In the realm of foreign policy, Hollande, the horrid (neoliberal and disgraced) leader of France declared that “there are challenges, there are the challenges the US administration poses to our trade rules, as well as to our ability to resolve conflicts around the world.” [23] Others commentators noted that Trump is making up facts, ignoring realities, which mirrors the lies during the Obama administration about chemical weapons by the Syrian government (proven false) and concealing evidence about “who was behind the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014,” but that Trump is not helping himself by “making easily debunked claims about crowd sizes and voter fraud” meaning that for now he “has gotten off to a very rocky start by telling some very petty lies.” Other commentators went beyond Trump. One specifically noted that Rex Tillerson “confirmed before the US Congress that hostilities and agitation toward both Moscow and Beijing will only expand over the next 4-8 years,” saying that US foreign policy won’t change, as the US will “continue meddling across Asia and provoking conflict with China,” just like under Obama, tensions with Russia will continue, and that “nothing, short of war, will backup Tillerson’s statements about a sea literally an ocean away from US shores.” The final commentary was on Global Research Center. This commentator noted Trump’s horrible policies, ranging from the DAPL construction resuming, a border wall between the US and Mexico, an immigration ban, some of Trump’s tweets, Trump’s lies, and declared that there is hopefulness of resistance to Trump despite Wall Street seeming to warm up to him but saying such resistance should change:

“…The ascendancy of Trump provides an important opportunity for the building of a broad-based united front of democratic forces including African Americans, Latin Americans, Native peoples, immigrants, women, LGBTQ communities, environmentalists and other working class constituencies. However, this alliance which represents the majority of the population within the U.S. must be based on sound political principles and not opportunism…This coalition of genuine popular forces should be organized outside the framework of the Democratic Party which represents the same ruling class elements as the Trumpist Republicans and their Wall Street and Pentagon supporters…A revolutionary mass party of the working class and the oppressed is the only solution to the current political and economic crises.”

Day Nine: January 28

Note: I published this right at midnight on Jan. 29, meant to cover everything Jan. 28 and before, so when it says “today” it is referring to Jan. 28, not today

The racist and bigoted immigration order of Trump played out today. For one, many “refugees and migrants holding valid visas” who were en route to the US were stopped, specifically “detained at U.S. airports and restricted from the country as a result of President Trump’s executive order,” with such people detained or not allowed in including Iraqis, Yemenis, Syrians, and Iranians, to say the least, with groups like the International Refugee Assistance Project on their side. [24] Even those who have green card holders from target countries, all of which are Muslim majority but do not include Saudi Arabia or any of the Gulf autocracies of course, are banned.

Rightly so, many reacted with anger. Arabs and Iranians who planned trips to the US were angry, saying that the ban was “insulting and discriminatory,” and some said it made them feel humiliated. [25] Even the director of an Oscar-nominated film, Asghar Farhadi, was apparently not allowed to attend the Academy Awards next month as a result of the ban. [26] His film is a French-Iranian drama which tells the story of a couple who play lead roles in Death of a Salesman, have a fraught relationship. Not surprisingly, Silicon Valley, also called Sexist Valley or Surveillance Valley more accurately, was at least partially mad. Google and Facebook CEOs slammed the orders as “loss of talent,” detracting from those who are “real threats,” and making people live in “fear of deportation.” [27] This of course was driven more by the fear of loss of profit by these mega-corporations than caring about actual people, no doubt.

The reality of the order has been playing out all day. One Iraqi man was released even as another is detained (or was before he was released also) as a result of the order. Additionally, as a result of the ban, enforced by Customs and Border Protection officials on the ground, led to warnings from Qatar Airways to travelers, Iran criticizing the ban, The International Rescue Committee, The International Organization for Migration, UNHCR, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and weepy Democrats slamming the order, while House Speaker Paul Ryan defended it, saying that “our number one responsibility is to protect the homeland.” [28] The same article even claimed that “the list of seven countries [Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia] whose citizens are now banned from the US was likely just a starting point” with the administration weighing it if could add even more countries to the list! The racism clearly continues.

Many other organizations and individuals condemned the ban today. These included Jewish organizations ranging from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and J Street to the Anti-Defamation League,” the latter of which are horribly pro-Israel, without a doubt. [29] The revolutionary Iranian government struck back as well. The Iranian Foreign Ministry declared that while respecting people of the US is important, with it being vital to distinguish between them and hostile US actions, “Iran will implement the principle of reciprocity until the offensive U.S. limitations against Iranian nationals are lifted,” as they argued that “restrictions against travel by Muslims to America…are an open affront against the Muslim world and the Iranian nation in particular and will be known as a great gift to extremists.” [30] Additionally, President Hassan Rouhani said earlier today that there is no reason to build walls between nations, implying Trump, saying

“Today is not the time to erect walls between nations. They have forgotten that the Berlin wall fell years ago. To annul world trade accords does not help their economy and does not serve the development and blooming of the world economy. This is the day for the world to get closer through trade.”

While he makes a valid point against walls, he is also endorsing corporate globalization which has devastated indigenous peoples across the world and allows capitalism to gain new markets wherever it nests, leading to exploitation and destruction, including in Iran. So, his statement is wrongheaded (in part because he doesn’t note the anti-fascist nature of the Berlin Wall) but also aligned with Western business elites without a doubt.

Sudan echoed the statement of Iran. Their foreign ministry declared that the ban was unfortunate after progress on sanctions, saying that “It is particularly unfortunate that this decision coincides with the two countries’ historic move to lift economic and trade sanctions…and just as economic and financial institutions as well as businessmen in the country were set to continue developing their investment projects.” [31] Then there’s education campaigner Malala Yousafzai, who seems she has been taken in by the glamor and acceptance of Western bourgeois institutions, saying that she is “heartbroken that today President Trump is closing the door on children, mothers and fathers fleeing violence and war. I am heartbroken that America is turning its back on a proud history of welcoming refugees and immigrants – the people who helped build your country, ready to work hard in exchange for a fair chance at a new life…I ask President Trump not to turn his back on the world’s most defenseless children and families.” [32]

I’ve also heard recently that the bigoted immigration order has been stayed by several federal judges which turns it to be correct. It was after a case filed by the ACLU which has a horrible history, along with other cases across the country. It is also clear that Trump will stay in defending it, saying it isn’t a “Muslim ban,” working out as he planned, with the former an utter lie. [33]

Beyond his bigotry, Trump made outreaches on the foreign policy front. He called Russian President Vladimir Putin today in hopes of having “a great relationship” between the US and Russia (and stabilizing US-Russia ties), along with calls to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on “security and trade issues between the two countries and the mutual threat posed by North Korea,” speaking to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with likely calls with French President François Hollande and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. [34] It has also been reported that there has been a “sudden resignation” in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by Norman Bay, resulting in leaving the commission with only two commissioners, “not enough for the required quorum to make decisions,” meaning that “even if the president chooses someone quickly, the process will likely take several months,” with an appointment process that “requires Senate confirmation.” [35]

Beyond January 28

There is much still to come in the later days of Trump’s presidency. For one, seemingly on January 30, Trump will announce that the US embassy in Israel will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He also will continue to advocate on path, making it worth looking at those financial disclosures of his nominees who include as I previously noted:

“…former Goldman Sachs partner Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, arch-conservative Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, ex-Navy Seal Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior, conservative (and wife of Mitch McConnell) Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation, former governor of Texas Rick Perry for Energy Secretary, long-time investment banker Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce, restaurant CEO Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor, Georgia politician Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services, conservative commentator Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, billionaire education “reformer” Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos as Secretary of Education, investment banker Gary Cohn as Director of the National Economic Council, and Director of Ameritrade Todd M. Ricketts as Deputy Secretary of Commerce…Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator of the EPA, California politician Mick Mulvaney as director of the OMB (Office of Management and Budget), pro-wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon as administrator of the SBA (Small Business Administration), and Wall Street lawyer Walter “Jay” Clayton as director of the SEC (Securities and Exchanges Commission).”

At the same time, it is worth noting that Trump has only signed, so far, a small number of executive orders” but is in a “long line of incoming commanders-in-chief flexing their executive muscles the first week on the job” and likely many of those before him, “the President is using his new executive powers to make his campaign promises a reality.” [36]

That’s not all. The Japanese government is apparently fearful, trying to “please the new foul-speaking lord? 10 billion dollars will be spent…in the United States by Toyota car giant, in order to appease the new Emperor” but notes at Trump is “preaching protectionism and an extreme form of nationalism” while he also “decides to exceed all previous rulers by his brutality and aggressiveness, and re-hire the old and well-tested samurai, Japan, for his deadly onslaught against humanity.”  It is also worth noting that Russia is still quite muted about Trump, likely even after the call today, as they are “carefully reading the signals from Trump” and that Moscow is “literally gun-shy of America, the distance between micro-events, like my treatment a couple of days ago on Russian television, and macro-developments, like improving bilateral relations, is very small indeed.”

I don’t have much else to add here, other than saying that for one the billionaires must be made extinct, and that two, Trump should be resisted at all costs but bourgeois liberals and bourgeois progressives cannot be trusted, instead independent and radical structures (and movements) should be built and expanded, because otherwise Trumpian fascism will roll right over the US without a real fight, something that none of us really should want if we care about the world around us.

Notes

[1] Roberta Rampton and Ayesha Rascoe, “Obama shortens sentence of Manning, who gave secrets to WikiLeaks,” Reuters, Jan. 18, 2017.

[2] Daniella Diaz, Sophie Tatum, Amanda Wills and Alysha Love, “Inauguration live coverage,” CNN, January 20, 2017.

[3] Sary Levy-Carciente and María Teresa Romero, “Rex Tillerson Has A Long, Troubled History With Venezuela,” HuffPost, Jan. 15, 2017.

[4] Rory Jones, “Israel PM Netanyahu Praises Trump’s Plan for Mexico Border Wall,” Wall Street Journal, Jan. 28, 2017.

[5] Alex Lockie, “White House: The US will stop China from taking over territory in international waters,” Business Insider, Jan. 23, 2017; Reuters, “Trump White House Pledges to Block China from Taking South China Sea Islands,” Jan. 23, 2017, reprinted in Newsweek.

[6] Reuters, “Trump White House Pledges to Block China from Taking South China Sea Islands,” Jan. 23, 2017, reprinted in Newsweek.

[7] Bill Vlasic, “Trump, in Meeting, Urges Automakers to Build in United States,” New York Times, Jan. 24, 2017.

[8] Michaeleen Doucleff, “U.S. Spent $1.4 Billion To Stop HIV By Promoting Abstinence. Did It Work?,” May 3, 2016, NPR News; Andy Kopsa, “Obama still funding failed ‘faith-based’ programmes,” Al Jazeera, March 27, 2013.

[9] Julie Hirschfeld Davis, “Trump Orders Mexican Border Wall to Be Built and Is Expected to Block Syrian Refugees,” New York Times, Jan. 25, 2017.

[10] Greg Miller, “White House draft order calls for review on use of CIA ‘black site’ prisons overseas,” Washington Post, Jan. 25, 2017.

[11] Katie Bo Williams, “Trump review exposes GOP divide on torture,” The Hill, January 25, 2017.

[12] Austin Wright, “Mattis, Pompeo stunned by CIA ‘black sites’ report,” Politico, January 25, 2017.

[13] Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, “Trump administration backs off plan to scrub climate pages from EPA website,” Washington Post, January 25, 2017; Michael D. Shear and Peter Baker, “After His Claim of Voter Fraud, Trump Vows ‘Major Investigation’,” New York Times, Jan. 25, 2017.

[14] Michael M. Grynbaum, “Trump Strategist Stephen Bannon Says Media Should ‘Keep Its Mouth Shut’,” New York Times, Jan. 26, 2017.

[15] Julia Edwards Ainsley, “Trump moves ahead with wall, puts stamp on U.S. immigration, security policy,” Reuters, Jan. 26, 2017.

[16] Neil Irwin, “How to Interpret the Trump Administration’s Latest Signals on Mexico,” New York Times, Jan. 26, 2017.

[17] The article also says correctly that “the US accounts for nearly 70 percent of the NATO budget and has long urged its European allies to step up their contributions, particularly in the face of what Washington calls the “Russian aggression” in Ukraine.”

[18] Greg Myre, “At Pentagon, Trump Declares His Aim Of ‘Rebuilding’ The Military,” NPR News, Jan. 27, 2017.

[19] Max Bearak, “Even before Trump, more Mexicans were leaving the U.S. than arriving,” Washington Post, Jan. 27, 2017.

[20] Sabrina Siddiqui, “Trump signs ‘extreme vetting’ executive order for people entering the US,” The Guardian, Jan. 27, 2017.

[21] These countries come from ISIL territorial claims, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an Islamic group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, other organizations listed by the State Department, and state sponsors of terrorism.

[22] Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “Mike Pence tells March for Life in Washington: ‘We will not rest, until we restore a culture of life’,” Washington Post, Jan. 27, 2017, reprinted in National Post.

[23] This article also says and I quote, “the US president is also expected to scrap the agreement’s European equivalent, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Area (Nafta),” but this is ultimately questionable.

[24] Emma Brown and David Nakamura, “Refugees, migrants detained at U.S. airports challenge Trump’s executive order,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017; Michael D. Shear and Nicholas Kulish, “Trump’s Immigration Ban Blocks Travelers at Airports Around Globe,” New York Times, Jan. 28, 2017; Amy R. Connolly,”Syrian refugees detained at N.Y. airport file legal challenge,” UPI, Jan. 28, 2017.

[25] Eric Knecht and Maher Chmaytelli, “In Middle East, US travel curbs decried as unjust, insulting,” Reuters, January 28, 2017.

[26] CBS, “Oscar-nominated film’s director can’t attend amid Trump immigration ban, group’s leader says,” Jan. 28, 2017.

[27] Laura Mandaro, “Google CEO troubled by Trump refugee ban that ‘creates barriers’ to talent,” USA TODAY, Jan. 28, 2017.

[28] Jeremy Diamond, “Trump’s immigration ban sends shockwaves,” CNN, Jan. 28, 2017

[29] Laura Koran, “Jewish groups pan Trump for signing refugee ban on Holocaust Remembrance Day,” CNN, Jan. 28, 2017.

[30] Parisa Hafezi, “’An open affront against the Muslim world’: Iran says it will ban Americans in response to Trump’s refugee order,” Reuters, Jan. 28, 2017, reprinted in Business Insider

[31] Reuters, “Sudan calls Trump ban unfortunate in light of sanctions progress,” Jan. 28, 2017

[32] The same article notes that in December 2015, those who denounced Trump’s proposed ban included “Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Republican House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), who said the ban was “not what this party stands for.” “More importantly,” Ryan added at the time, “it’s not what this country stands for.”” Ryan, of course, has switched his position in favor of bigotry now.

[33] Doug Stanglin and Alan Gomez, “Trump says immigration ban working ‘nicely’ as protests, detainments hit airports,” USA Today, Jan. 28, 2017.

[34] Philip Rucker and David Filipov, “Trump holds calls with Putin, leaders from Europe and Asia,” Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2017; Laura Smith-Spark and Ivan Watson, “Trump and Putin talked about stabilizing ties, Kremlin says,” CNN, Jan. 28, 2017.

[35] Marie Cusick, “As Trump Reboots Pipeline Expansion, An Unexpected Delay Emerges,” NPR News, Jan. 28, 2017.

[36] Lauren Said-Moorhouse, “What’s Trump done so far? His productive first week and how it stacks up to previous presidents,” CNN, Jan. 26, 2017

Gun control and armed resistance: a critical history

Courtesy of Akinyele Omowale Umoja's We Will Shoot Back (p. 197)
Courtesy of Akinyele Omowale Umoja’s 2013 Black resistance history, We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement (p. 197)

The days in the United States may seem dark indeed but with Trump in power and the authoritarianism will increase from its current murderous norm. This means that any pretense for nonviolent respectfulness as a “solution” on its own should be abandoned. Last month, I promised to write about this subject and now I am delivering on that promise, with views which are different from those I expressed in the past. [1] To be clear, I’m no “gun nut” or “gun enthusiast,” a label that liberals and progressives throw around, and do not subscribe to the views of the NRA (National Rifle Association) or any of its supporters. This article is the beginning of a two part series, with this article recounting the history of gun control laws, which is interconnected with the story of armed self-defense and armed resistance. In order to construct this history, those of liberal, conservative, and radical viewpoints are used together.

A critical history of gun control, armed self-defense and armed resistance

For much of US history, gun laws have been interlinked with racism and racial politics, at minimum. The first targets of gun control measures were enslaved Blacks, with the fear of “Black rebellion and…fear of weapons in Black hands,” aiming to prevent the possession of weapons by Black people in America. [2] Specifically, the first gun control measure was in colonial Virginia in 1664, with similar measures passing in 1712 and in 1831 after Nat Turner’s rebellion. [3] From here, it is worth jumping forward to the traditional founders, often called the “Founding Fathers” in our hero-centric culture. When the Second Amendment was proposed as part of the bourgeois freedoms (“The Bill of Rights”), demanded by Anti-Federalists, later the first Republicans, which mainly included dispossessed farmers and slaveowners, it was not racially equal. Those who wrote and ratified it, had numerous laws on the books which were racially exclusive, banning enslaved Blacks (and even free Blacks) from having guns, in fear of revolt across the thirteen states of the new country. [4] Some have even argued that the amendment itself was not meant to protect individual’s right to bear arms but to prevent the federal government “from usurping control of state militias and undermining their slave patrol duties” and was used by the author of the amendment, James Madison, as part of his “1789 campaign to win election to the House of Representatives” and gain support for the “Bill of Rights” on the whole. [5]

After the new rights were put in place, there were some gun laws were so intrusive that they would be emphatically rejected by the NRA and others if laws of a similar character were proposed today. One such law, in 1792, on the federal level, mandated that “every eligible man…purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia” with guns inspected and put on public rolls. [6] Some may take this to mean that such laws were not racist after all. However, such a law was likely to prevent rebellions by farmers and dispossessed revolutionary war veterans, like those in Western Pennsylvania, in 1786 and from 1791-1794, over economic inequality, taxes (of numerous types), foreclosure, debt enforced by the courts, and other forms of resentment. [7] Hence, such gun laws were a form of social control aimed at Whites. Laws that were racist continued into the 19th century, with Blacks allowed to possess arms in Virginia in the early 1800s but “had to obtain permission from local officials” which was unlikely. [8] Another form of social control aimed at White gun owners were concealed carry laws in the 1820s where purportedly “violence-prone men” were limited in using their weapons, an example cited by gun control advocates as “the first modern gun control laws” with the aim of “reducing criminal violence among whites.” [9] Such an explanation is historically inaccurate because the first gun laws were in the 17th century, as noted in the previous paragraph. Additionally, the first bans on concealed weapons were in the Southern states of Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, seen then limiting a practice of criminals. Then, by the mid-1900s, most US states had concealed carry laws rather than banning guns completely within their state borders, implying that they these laws were a form of social control.

For enslaved Blacks, guns were an important and vital tool (one of many tools) of resistance against their chains of human bondage. They were used to protect against violent White supremacists, police, and terrorist vigilantes. Without guns, they were defenseless and could not win their freedom or initiate an armed rebellion, rejected by most as a “losing strategy” since enslaved Blacks were a “minority in a predominantly white country.” [10] Still, they were at least “313 slave actions, or alleged revolts by groups of ten or more slave[s]” from 1526, 16 years after the first 50 enslaved Blacks are transported to the North America (on January 22, 1510) and start of the African slave trade in the Americas, until 1860, compared to thousands in other parts of the Americas (not within the United States). After one such rebellion, in 1831, by Nat Turner, which was recently Hollywoodified in Birth of a Nation, planters repressed abolitionists and actions of rebellious Blacks as guns were controlled even more tightly. [11] Such restrictions were not a surprise. Brutal slaveowner Thomas Jefferson, one of the “Founders,” worried to John Adams, in an 1821 letter, that enslaved Blacks, once free, would have the right to bear arms and that they might “seek and gain political influence and power,” leading to possible revolt. [12]

Some advocates of gun control have said that it is “sad” to admit that “our gun rights history…is stained with racism,” which commenced when Blacks, free and enslaved, were banned from owning firearms, with the means of enforcing this being “slave patrols” where armed White men went around to “ensure that blacks were not wandering or gathering where they were not permitted, engaging in suspicious activity or acquiring forbidden weapons” with such functions in some areas “taken over by state militias.” [13] I’m not sure why it is sad to admit this. It is better to recognize it as a part of US history which is glossed so easily that heart-throbbing gun rights advocates have taken up the cause of spreading this information instead of progressives, which is a damn shame. Anyway, Blacks being prohibited from owning guns was even ruled as legal by North Carolina and Georgia Supreme Courts in the 1840s! [14] At the same time, during the Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) case, denying Blacks, like Dred Scott, an enslaved Black man whose story is not fully known, whether enslaved or free, standing (or humanity) in court, declaring the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, and saying that enslaved Blacks in U.S. territories cannot be freed by an act of Congress, guns was part of the reason cited by racist and bigoted Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of the Supreme Court, for this decision. [15]

Gun control was clearly aimed at Blacks (enslaved and free) and Whites (to an extent) as a form of social control before the Civil War. Some resisted this imposition, including Harriet Tubman, who was a “conductor” of the underground railroad, carrying a firearm (debate it if was a pistol or rifle) to fend off “possible attacks from slavecatchers” and rescuing more than 300 people from slavery with her gun by her side. [16] Frederick Douglass, one of the major leaders of the abolitionist movement, declared that a good revolver was critical for Blacks to stay free, specifically commenting that gaining freedom in the South would require “the ballot-box, the jury-box and the cartridge-box.” [17] Before the Civil War, some Black female fugitive slaves fired back at slavecatchers, while others engaged in armed self-defense or armed resistance, even as Blacks in the South were not allowed to possess guns, with such guns used in these struggles taken from those in the hands of White folks. [18] With the onset of the Civil War, Blacks gained guns, legally, for the first time, with Black soldiers as a decisive force during the war. [19] 

But, the victory for the Union, and ultimately for Black peoples in the American South mainly, would not last. Many southern Blacks predicted that they would need their weapons to “defend themselves against racist whites unhappy with the Confederacy’s defeat,” a prediction proven true when “recalcitrant white racists committed to the reestablishment of white supremacy determined to take those guns away from blacks” and reassert control. [20] It was then that “Black Codes” were passed to reestablish White power across the South, with measures banning Blacks from owning liquor and guns, with some laws cloaked in “neutral, non-racial terms,” which was enforced by groups of White men who “began terrorizing black communities.” [21] These vigilante enforcers took different names in every locale, but mainly came to be known by the name of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), along with many others, with intimidation campaigns which disarmed Blacks and served as gun control organs arguably. [22] Newly freed Blacks were not passive or fell into their “assigned” state of subservience, but actively resisted such intimidation and White terrorism, forming Union Leagues with Black militia attachments and Black rifle clubs, even as there was no attempt to disarm such White racist vigilantes, leading to some communities unable to resist racist assaults as they were left “vulnerable and disarmed.” [23]

Such gun control efforts in the Reconstruction period have been used by guns rights supporters on the right-wing, in the present, to advance the argument that “gun control is racist.” This argument seemingly assumes that gun control began during the Reconstruction period. While gun control supporters are right that this is incorrect, some argue laughably that laws before the Civil War were “enacted to provide for the public’s safety, not to discriminate against any particular minority, and were enforced uniformly against all state residents” which whitewashes the actual history to make it sound nice, happy, and glad, denying that laws were racist and/or a form of social control. [24] Still, such people cannot deny that there were “discriminatory gun control laws at this time—and other times—in our history that specifically targeted blacks.” It is more accurate to say, like Detroit Black man Rick Ector, that “gun control has racist roots” even if you disagree with his assertion that denying people “the opportunity to own a gun and to protect themselves…is the epitome of racism.” [25]

In the following years of the Reconstruction, the ability of Black Americans to own guns was under attack. The Supreme Court eviscerated the true meaning of the 14th Amendment, in United States v. Cruikshank  and The Slaughter-House Cases, among others, which allowed racism to be further greenlighted in the South, with groups, like the KKK, engaging in forcible disarmament of free Blacks and imposing White supremacy through “rape and murder of countless ordinary blacks” as they gained (and held) power throughout the American South. [26] Once again, this did not happen without resistance. In 1892, in pamphlet entitled “Southern Horrors,” Ida B. Wells, a Black female crusader against lynching, declared that mob violence was only ameliorated when “blacks exercised manly self-defense” because “a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home.” [27] Specifically, the resistance to White terror after the rise of the KKK and legal violence of Southern government led to what became the modern civil rights movement starting in the early 20th century. [28]

The NAACP and W.E.B. DuBois were at the forefront of such a movement. In 1906, after the Atlanta “race riot,” DuBois patrolled his home with a shotgun. His aggressive statements following this event and his purchase of a gun were not just a one-time event. [29] In fact, as the editor of the NAACP’s magazine, still printed today, called The Crisis, DuBois championed “armed self-defense,” casting it as a duty, a viewpoint also held by NAACP leaders Walter White and Louis Wright, among others. During the 1919 “race riot” in Chicago, DuBois urged robust self-defense through the use of “bricks and clubs and guns” even as he cautioned against “blind and lawless offense against all white folk” and in 1921 he invoked self-defense as he urged Blacks to migrate into the North. Organizationally, the NAACP cut its teeth defending those Black Americans who engaged in armed self-defense, with major litigation. This included defense of a Black sharecropper, named Pink Franklin, who shot the planter “who laid claim to him under a peonage contract” in 1910, and was freed by 1919. Another case was that of Ossian Sweet, a man who feared White “mobbers” and being called a coward when going into his home in 1925. So he carried “a sack full of guns and ammunition” and a mob gathered. By the end of the encounter, one white man was killed by “Negro gunfire” and the NAACP hired “Clarence Darrow to defend the Sweets” while they used the “case to fuel a fundraising juggernaut.” Some instances didn’t go as well, such as Sgt. Edgar Caldwell, a WWI veteran, who shot (and killed) a trolley driver who stomped on him “after throwing him from the whites-only section.” Caldwell only survived two years on death row “before he was executed” despite the NAACP raising money for his defense. Finally, it is worth noting that DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, and Marcus Garvey came together in thought (likely not in reality), as they found “basic agreement” on the idea of armed self-defense by Black Americans.

Dr. Ossian Sweet & his East Side Garland home
Dr. Ossian Sweet & his East Side Garland home

Beyond the NAACP, Black Americans were fending for themselves. Up until the 1950s (and beyond), Black women defended themselves from harassment and physical assault by White men with pistols or “handy” rifles. [30] As Jim Crow and Jane Crow intensified in the wake of the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) decision which legalized “separate but equal” racial segregation in the American South, states enacted “gun registration and handgun permit laws” with such laws passed in Mississippi (1906), Georgia (1913), and North Carolina (1917), along with others following in Missouri (1919) and Arkansas (1923). [31]

At this point, gun control laws expanded beyond social control of White folks and anti-Black racism to other marginalized social groups. Such laws included the infamous Sullivan Act, which was put in place to “keep the immigrant populations from carrying pistols” and served as what some call the “the forefather of today’s modern “may issue” gun permit laws” for concealed carry. [32] Some guns rights advocates claim that California’s roots of its gun control legislation is “tied to white anxiety over Mexican-Americans and Chinese-Americans at the beginning of the 20th century.” [33] While more research would be needed to see if this claim is accurate, there is one reality that is clear: discriminatory gun laws in the Northern United States were passed from the 1910s until the 1930s. These laws, which came about as a result of immigration of “unsavory types”, were thoroughly embedded with racism and directly promoted and crafted by the National Rifle Association (NRA). [34] Specifically as a response to urban gun violence and crime often pegged on immigrants, especially those from Italy and Eastern Europe, the president of the NRA, Harvard-educated lawyer Karl Frederick, helped draft “model legislation to restrict concealed carry of firearms in public.” These laws, such as the Uniform Firearms Act in Pennsylvania in the 1920s, allowed police to determine who was “suitable” to carry a gun, with “racial minorities and disfavored immigrants…usually deemed unsuitable.” [35] Later on, in 1934, when Congress was considering restrictions on “”gangster guns” like machine guns and sawed-off shotguns,” the NRA endorsed the law, showing that it was not the “aggressive lobbying arm for gun manufacturers” that it is today. [36]

During the 1930s, some of those in the working class directly engaged in armed self-defense. The Communist Party (CP) mobilized mass support with “the Scottsboro defense campaign, the miners’ strike of 1931, the unemployed movement, and the underground and armed self-defense organization of thousands of sharecroppers under conditions of the most vicious repression,” helping to prepare the working class for “the enormous battles of the late 1930s.” [37] Such sharecroppers came together in the Sharecropper’s Union, starting in Alabama in 1932, which expanded its membership to “about 12,000 poor farmers and farm laborers,” who were mostly Black, with some White workers, “in five Black Belt states of the Deep South.” [38] With the CP’s members among the leadership, this union organized rural poor to resist plantation owners and ally with urban working class folks. Since the conditions in the South made “elementary demands” have “revolutionary significance,” the sharecroppers organized their struggle as one with arms, engaging in “revolutionary armed self-defense” to meet what they saw, accurately, as “counterrevolutionary terror” with pitched armed battles in Tallapoosa County, Alabama (Camp Hill in 1931 and Reeltown in 1932) and Lowndes County, Alabama, in 1935. [39]

As the years went by, armed self-defense was undoubtedly still used but no new gun control legislation was passed, with new laws not reappearing until the 1960s. One person who threatened armed self-defense was Paul L. Robeson. In 1946, he challenged the refusal by President Harry S. Truman to sponsor anti-lynching legislation by telling him that if the federal government would not protect Blacks, they would “exercise their right of armed self-defense.”[40] This threat was not based in thin air but in the reality and likely actions of Black Americans. Robeson later attended a world peace conference in Paris in 1949, saying that Black Americans should not fight “against the Soviet Union on behalf of their own oppressors” and as a result, the bourgeois media and US government “launched an attack of unprecedented ferocity against Robeson that lasted for nine years.”

By the 1950s, the tradition of armed self-defense continued. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the up and coming leaders in the civil rights movement, took measures to protect himself, making his home an “arsenal.” [41] He applied for a concealed carry permit, under a law that the NRA had promoted thirty years earlier, in 1956, after his home was bombed, but the application was rejected. Still, his house was protected by armed guards for sometime before he fully endorsed the methods and practice of nonviolence. However, he was not the first one.

In 1954, those in the NAACP chapter, mostly “upper-class Blacks,” in Monroe, North Carolina, fled due to attacks by the Klan, leaving Robert F. Williams and Dr. Albert E. Perry as the only two members. [42] With Williams (henceforth referred to as Robert) and Perry at the helm, the Monroe NAACP branch gained a new life and character. Soon enough the organization consisted of veterans in the leadership, housewives and “fed up” working-class people from the local area. [43] In 1958 and 1959, Robert, a WWII veteran, led the chapter, apart from civil rights activism, to defend two “black children below the age of ten were sentenced for sexual molestation because a white girl kissed them,” in what was called the “Kissing Case.” They were pardoned due to popular pressure, resulting in the Klan engaging in vigilante action by burning crosses in front of their houses.

However, the equation changed in May 1959. A Monroe court acquitted a “white man for the attempted rape of a black woman,” leading Robert to declare on the steps of the courthouse that “this demonstration today shows that the Negro in the South cannot expect justice in the courts. He must convict his attackers on the spot. He must meet violence with violence, lynching with lynching.” [44] He later clarified his statement by saying that he was only saying that if the US Constitution could not be “enforced in this social jungle called Dixie,” then Blacks need to “defend themselves even if it is necessary to resort to violence,” explaining that

“that there is no law here, there is no need to take the white attackers to the courts because they will go free and that the federal government is not coming to the aid of people who are oppressed, and it is time for Negro men to stand up and be men and if it is necessary for us to die we must be willing to die. If it is necessary for us to kill we must be willing to kill.” [45]

Of course, this resulted in his suspension as president of the NAACP branch, leading his wife, Mabel, to be elected president in his place. [46]

Other than the civil rights activism, the NAACP chapter had another role. In 1957, Robert, along with his wife Mabel, and others in the community, organized a rifle club to defend themselves from attacks by the KKK, with the base of the club coming from the NAACP branch that Robert led. While Black men dominated the new club, some Black women were members, and the club’s actions were broadly a success. [47] Robert, and the actions of the club, became a “classic example” of armed self-defense and “militant community action,” meaning that he and his chapter were controversial, with disputes with Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, just like Malcolm X years later. [48] The club, which was associated with the NRA likely because they thought those in the club were White, hilariously enough, the club used guns to defend Freedom Riders and the local community. [49] Anger from moderate bourgeois civil rights organizations like the mainstay of the NAACP and continuing horrid conditions in the South led Robert and others to question the usefulness of nonviolence, showing that the “meaning of civil rights activism was not set in stone but constantly contested and reconstructed.” [50] Robert later formed a unique ideology “from elements of black nationalism, Marxism, and radical republicanism.” [51]

Robert and Mabel Williams with pistols, training in Cuba.
Robert and Mabel Williams with pistols, training in Cuba.

Throughout the late 1950s, armed self-defense was advocated by numerous peoples of the Black community, organized mainly in “small and scattered groups” until the early 1960s. [52] Most of those who took up arms were Black men, who dominated the “organized and formal” armed self-defense in the South. However, some women took up arms to defend their families and later nonviolent civil rights activists. [53] Ultimately, Blacks in the South saw their struggle as one to stay alive, and then to fight for the right to vote, among other political rights, meaning that they were not about  revenge as White slaveowners like Jefferson had guessed. [54]

While it is valid to say that nonviolent direct action defeated racial segregation, American apartheid more accurately, in the South, it is also worth acknowledging that field organizers, nonviolent in their stance, in the Deep South, were “often protected by armed farmers and workers.” [55] It is also worth remembering that a “civil rights victory” was not inevitable, but that the role of armed Blacks helped this occur. In 1964, Robert P. ‘Bob’ Moses, director of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)’s Mississippi project, declared that “it’s not contradictory for a farmer to say he’s nonviolent and also pledge to shoot a marauder’s head off.” [56] Like Moses, many advocates for Black civil rights and for desegregation appreciated the importance of guns in the South, especially by Black veterans and informally organized community groups. Such groups and individuals helped protect racial justice advocates, seeing the protection as a necessity, with CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), SNCC, and Martin Luther King (MLK) refusing to publicly criticize the use of armed self-defense. [57] This made it clear that, the saying that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” was true in the south, for the “southern freedom movement.” [58]

The tradition of armed self-defense in the US South was connected with the civil rights movement, with many believing in nonviolent resistance, with gunfire and the threat of gunfire helping nonviolence, which some veterans of the movement describe as “aggressive confrontations,” serving as an effective tactic for change. [59] While this was the reality, and this resistance did end “mental paralysis” which made Blacks unable to break free of “white supremacy” fully, nonviolence was not a way of life for many in the southern Black community with households having guns and armed supporters protecting field organizers. [60] Conflict between fears of bigoted (and racist) Whites and needs of Blacks to defend themselves arose again later in the 1960s, leading to more radical Black activists who believed in varying forms of Black liberation and Black nationalism, and splitting from the arguably bourgeois civil rights movement. [61] Many Blacks, not just Black activists, apart from Malcolm X, were undertaking the slogan of armed self-defense as a way to protect themselves from violent repression of Blacks by racist Whites. [62]

Robert, Mabel, and the other members of the Williams family suffered from his strong stance against nonviolent respectfulness and in favor of armed self-defense. In August 1961, Mabel held off police who were coming to arrest Robert for a “so-called kidnapping of a white couple,” when he was actually trying to free the white couple from an angry mob. [63] Eventually, each one of them fled to Cuba after he was pegged with “kidnapping” changes. In the process, Robert rejected the idea of Black nationalism, along with Marxism, thinking that it “putting class before race,” at least as he saw it. These beliefs, while readers may disagree with them, are not a surprise for him since the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA), which had supposed “rigid Marxism,” was engaging in destalinization and embracing Khrushchev’s revisionism, as opposed to anti-revisionism. As a result, Robert made a lasting friendship with the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyist group, but also produced a newspaper named The Crusader and broadcast a radio show for Southern Blacks called Radio Free Dixie. [64] While he said that the Cuban government was limiting his work, it is more likely this was the work of the CPUSA, which had, at the time, removed themselves from actively supporting the struggle of suffering Blacks. As a result, in 1965, after arguing in favor of radical internationalism, he moved to the People’s Republic of China, where he stayed in exile. He later returned to the United States in 1969, and was pardoned of his “crimes” in 1975. Still, to many, his actions (which were not his own of course) still represented “the tactical power of armed self-defense as a tool against reactionaries of all stripes” and the power of Black nationalism. [65]

Through the 1960s, while Williams was in political exile (1961-1969), Blacks in the United States were not giving up the use of the gun to protect themselves and/or assert their rights as human beings. In 1964, while SNCC respected the desire of the Black masses to engage in armed self-defense, James Foreman admitted that “I dare say that 85 per cent of all Negroes do not adhere to non-violence. They are allowing the non-violent movement to go ahead because it is working.” [66] The same year, the Progressive Labor Movement, a radical communist group formed two years earlier which had been expelled from the CPUSA for pro-China sentiments, declared that

Black people, if they are to be free, must develop political power outside of the present power apparatus through armed self-defense, political councils, the creation of an economic base, seizing land and factories and finally, uniting with all workers struggling for revolution.” [67]

At the same time, a former preacher for the socially conservative, but Black nationalist, Nation of Islam (NOI), Malcolm X, who has been mentioned earlier, became even more spoken out. In 1964, Malcolm argued for Black rifle clubs, which the White commercial press were “hysterical” over, and for armed self-defense against White reactionaries, even telling Lew Rockwell, the head of the Nazis, that if MLK or anyone in his demonstration were harmed, then the Nazis would face “maximum physical retaliation.” [68] This belief was centered around the idea that nonviolence in and of itself was a lie that would hurt more Blacks, meaning that people should be armed and able to defend themselves rather than giving up their rights. [69] Malcolm directly embodied this in an iconic image in Ebony magazine, in 1964, with unknown origins, showing him with a M-L carbine, standing at the window, watching for those who were out to kill him.

Iconic Ebony picture, in 1964, of Malcolm x with gun
Ebony picture of Malcolm X with a gun

Sadly, Malcolm was gunned down by NOI members, on February 21, 1965, with twenty-one bullets riddling his body, likely with the help of the NYPD, CIA, and FBI, all who would have an interest in seeing him dead and “neutralized.”

Apart from Malcolm, there was one group that engaged in armed self-defense to protect civil rights activists. It was called the Deacons for Defense and Justice. This group defended civil rights workers against attacks from the KKK and other White supremacists, with a masculinist appeal and awareness of their place in history. [70] The group expanded across the Deep South, including into Louisiana’s Natchez area, with Black women not being actively involved (since they were actively excluded) but they did participate on an “individual and informal basis,” with women defending their homes “with armed force,” and others participating with men in target practice in auxiliaries called Deaconesses. [71] Specifically, there were at least six women associated with the Deacons, showing that armed self-defense wasn’t only a male phenomena.

Some gun control advocates claim that the Deacons do not support the idea that the “armed resistance won the civil rights movement,” which no one is arguing, saying that the Deacons were a “little-known group that had no discernible impact on the national civil rights movement.” [72] The argument, which rests on the fact that the group didn’t form until the summer of 1964, ends up citing certain “respectable” historians and uses huge MLK quotes. Ultimately, the Deacons, who were roughly active from 1964 to 1968, helped the national civil rights movement by allowing it to have victories in the Deep South, showing that fighting against segregation and racial injustice was a worthy cause. While one can argue that the results of the movement did not challenge the White power struggle on a national level, laws such as the Civil Rights Act in 1965 or Voting Rights Act in 1964 would have not been possible without the work of the Deacons. Without the Deacons protecting civil rights workers, it would have been harder to push for such laws since there would have been fewer victories against Southern racial apartheid, regardless of how much they accomplished in retrospect.

By 1965, Blacks were becoming more impatient than ever at the pace of the civil rights movement, and nonviolent respectfulness, which did not fundamentally challenge the White power structure nationwide. That year, in Watts, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, these emotions came out. The Progressive Labor Party (PLP), called the Progressive Labor Movement in earlier years, declared that this action was unorganized and faced tremendous odds, but that for a brief time of two days the people “liberated their own community and kept out the police.” [73] Still, they lamented that such resistance is too weak to meet the enemy at hand, meaning that there needed to be self-defense organizations to help them organize to defend themselves, along with independent political organizations to fight for their demands and lead them forward. Not everyone held this opinion of course. MLK argued that the Watts uprising was no model to be praised, but did recognize that such “riots” were the “language of the unheard.” The same year as Watts, there was a battle waged in “Bloody Lowndes” County, Alabama, which ended in 1966 with defeat, even as the efforts of a southern grassroots Black Power movement was gaining more strength, with visions of such Black freedom not yet realized. [74] It is worth mentioning here that there was armed self-defense in the North as well, during the 1960s and before, but this writer has not read about this in detail so they such instances have not been included in this article.

In October 1966, a new group came into the political scene: the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), formed by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. This organization began in Oakland, California around the “basic need for armed self-defense” and creating an “all-round program of self-defense” with demands for basic, human needs, a minimum program “designed to unfold into the maximum program of socialist revolution.” [75] The Panthers, influenced by Robert and Malcolm’s efforts, used guns as self-protection by openly carrying them in public and displaying them for everyone, especially the local police to see. The regular practice of “policing the police” in patrols happened after an incident in February 1967 when Newton, Seale, and several others, armed with guns, were stopped by police, with Newton refusing to let the police see a gun, with the police, after a huge crowd gathered, not challenging him and backing off. [76] Newton and Seale were frustrated with civil rights movement’s failed promise, leading to more violence and oppression by the police, pushing the belief that the gun would be a way to gain liberation. As for recruits who were within the BPP, they were taught about socialism and Black nationalism, in classes organized by other Panthers, and learned how to “clean, handle, and shoot guns.” [77]

Black Panthers inside of the California state house on May 2, 1967
Black Panthers inside of the California state house on May 2, 1967

One event of the Panthers electrified the nation and brought gun control back into the picture. In 1967, in an effort to stop the Panthers from brandishing guns in “an effort to police the police” and prevent police brutality, a measure was proposed to reduce their self-defense efforts. [78] In May of that year, a number of Panthers, with loaded weapons, went to the state legislature in Sacramento (in a “gun-in”) to oppose this form of racial repression, in an act which some say was the “birth” of the modern debate over gun rights, but this is inaccurate as such armed self-defense efforts had surfaced for years and years before. [79] On May 2, a day when eighth grade students were gathering to lunch with California’s new governor, Ronald Reagan, thirty young Black Panthers, with the 24 men holding guns and six women only accompanying them as comrades, took to the steps of the state capitol building carrying “revolvers, shotguns, and pistols.” [80] On those steps, Seale, reading a statement written by Newton (part of which is here), declared the following, connecting domestic and international struggles, a true statement of “intersectionality”:

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense calls upon the American people in general and the Black people in particular to take careful note of the racist California Legislature, which is now considering legislation aimed at keeping the Black people disarmed and powerless at the very same time that racist police agencies throughout the country are intensifying the terror, brutality, murder and repression of Black people. At the same time that the American government is waging a racist war of genocide in Vietnam, the concentration camps in which Japanese Americans were interned during World War II are being renovated and expanded. Since America has historically reserved the most barbaric treatment for nonwhite people, we are forced to conclude that these concentration camps are being prepared for Black people, who are determined to gain their freedom by any means necessary. The enslavement of Black people from the very beginning of this country, the genocide practiced on the American Indians and the confining of the survivors to reservations, the savage lynching of thousands of Black men and women, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and now the cowardly massacre in Vietnam, all testify to the fact that towards people of color the racist power structure of America has but one policy: repression, genocide, terror and the big stick. Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated and everything else to get the racist power structure in America to right the wrongs which have historically been answered by more repression, deceit, and hypocrisy. As the aggression of the racist American government escalates in  Vietnam, the police agencies of America escalates the repression of Black people throughout the ghettoes of America. Vicious police dogs, cattle prods and increased patrols have become familiar sights in Black communities. City Hall turns a deaf ear to the pleas of Black people for relief from this increasing terror. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense believes that the time has come for Black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late. The pending Mulford Act brings the hour of doom one step nearer. A people who have suffered so much for so long at the hands of a racist society, must draw the line somewhere. We believe that the Black communities of America must rise up as one man to halt the progression of a trend that leads inevitably to their total destruction.” [81]

While this act, and the subsequent marching inside the assembly chambers, gave the Panthers a nationwide reputation, a fear of Black people with guns led to new gun restrictions. [82] Specifically in response to this incident, Republican assemblymember Don Mulford, pushed forward the Mulford Act stronger than before, pledging to make the bill tougher. Then-Governor Reagan declared that there was “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons” and said that guns were a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will,” imposing no “hardship on the honest citizen” (referring to good-natured White people) signing the bill into law only a few months later. [83] Of course, the NRA supported this law and other gun control in the 1960s.

The following year, in 1968, the US Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Gun Control Act of 1968, with both laying the foundations for the existing carceral state. The latter law, which banned felons from buying guns, expanded gun dealer licensing, and prohibited import of cheap “poorly made guns that were frequently used for crime by urban youth,” making it clear that the law wasn’t about controlling guns but “was about controlling blacks.” [84] Yet again, the NRA supported the law, praising it in their American Rifleman publication, along with a federal report in 1968 following suit blaming urban unrest, to an extent, on “easy availability of guns,” and arguing for firearm controls. Some claim that the passing of these laws meant that “attitudes toward gun rights shifted” for a temporary time “in favor of more racially neutral gun control policies” but this denies the idea that gun control laws are a form of social control yet again. [85]

In the meantime, the Black liberation movement was gaining strength. In 1968, the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) was formed, lasting until 1971, embodying the ideas of economic independence, Black empowerment, and self-determination by “creating a Black nation within a nation,” calling for a homeland in “the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina — subjugated land in which people of African descent were enslaved,” states that are part of what is commonly called the “Black Belt.” [86] As part of RNA practices, they had a “cadre of young black men armed with rifles,” willing to engage in armed self-defense, with armed women serving as security for the RNA’s Land Celebration Day in 1971, with a picture from that day opening this article.

A handbill for the RNA
A handbill for the RNA

As for the BPP, there was also a change. As the male bravado of the Panthers was tamped down, Black female writers changed the game, along with illustrations by Emory Douglas, especially, in The Black Panther newspaper, showing “poor black women resisting authority in everyday life.” [87] Such women carried guns and were framed as equals with men, not those who were subservient. In later years however, the FBI engaged in infiltration and psychological warfare against the Panthers (among many other radical left groups) as part of COINTELPRO, even as they started the free breakfast program in January 1969 and were hated by FBI head J. Edgar Hoover with a passion. Organizational disputes between SNCC, the BPP, and other organizations led to divisiveness, even as newspaper circulation of The Black Panther reached 250,000 in 1970, with Eldridge Cleaver kicked out of the party in March 1970, leading to the creation of the Black Liberation Army (BLA). After this point, the remaining parts of the party leadership were torn apart, with Cleaver, Seale, and Newton going their separate ways, and the party collapsing in 1982.

Back in the late 1960s, support for gun control was across the board. In the 1968 presidential election, Bobby Kennedy, before his assassination, supported gun control of “private citizens” but not cops of course, and George McGovern also supported gun control, which some said would be “a major step in disarming the people.” [88] The following year, the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence or National Violence Commission for short, declared in the introduction to their final report that “violence in United States has risen to alarmingly high levels…[which is] dangerous to our society…it is jeopardizing some of our most precious institutions, among them schools and universities…it is corroding the central political processes of our democratic society.” [89] Specific measures they recommend, to bring violence “under control” and “better control,” are is creation of “central offices of criminal justice” and private citizen organizations “as counterparts” (possibly the idea of police unions) and most importantly, “the adoption of a national firearms policy that will limit the general availability of handguns.” [90] In later pages, the commission said that there needs to be a push for “responsible participation” by young people in America “in decision-making” as a possible “substitute for the violence that born in frustration,” along with admitting that “without the deterrent capability essential for security against external attack, internal freedom and security would not be possible,” implying that a huge military with a Soviet boogeyman is needed to keep US citizens “in line.” [91] They also argue that all Americans have to recognize “the basic causes of violence in our society and what must be done to achieve liberty and justice for all” and that strong measures must be taken to end the “rising tide of individual and group violence.” [92]

The commission was not alone in these remarks. Wacked out general Ramsey Clark, who has the imperialistic idea of “progress” across the continent, by saying it created conditions making crime “common,” declared that “revolutionary crime and illegal conduct intended to alter institutions impose rioting, mob violence, unlawful confrontation, arson and trespass on a weary society.” [93] Adding to this, he said that one of the elements of a “violent environment” which “violent crime” springs from is the “prevalence of guns,” implying that he supports gun control. [94] Others said however, in 1970, that violence was an “ambiguous term” and that “order,” like violence, is “politically defined” and argued that national commissions in 1919, 1943, and 1968 do not mention (or consider) the connection of war (in this case in Vietnam) and domestic violence, an important fact to consider. [95]

On the far right, there was a new development. The gun control efforts in the 1960s, which aimed to disarm “urban and black radicals” led to backlash. Hardline NRA supporters took over the leadership of the NRA, changing it from fighting for sport shooting into a group engaging in “aggressive political lobbying to defeat gun control” and leading to the modern gun-rights movement today. [96] People like Maxwell Rich, of the old NRA, were pushed out of the way, with a man named Harlon Carter, leading his allied rank-and-file members to engage in a coup to take over the leadership in May 1977. [97] He and his loyal followers transformed the NRA, for the worse, into a pro-gun powerhouse and juggernaut where mistrust of law enforcement was one of the main beliefs. At the same time, as the GOP and NRA rejected gun control, Blacks, faced by increased violence in US cities and the crack cocaine epidemic, driven in part by the CIA’s activities, embraced it. [98]

As for the Left, support for armed self-defense and armed resistance was continued by certain sections and groups. Some argued that the “question of armed struggle” was a matter of expediency determined by political crisis in the country, potential of support from the masses at-large, and need of the people to engage in armed self-defense. [99] A few years later in April 1972, the “Revolutionary Union” group declared that “…even in an organized mass way, armed self-defense is incapable of completing the revolutionary task, and in time will even become less useful for defense,” saying that ultimately the only “real defense” of the populace is to “destroy the enemy…[through] offensive action and an organized military force.” [100] One such ideology that included armed self-defense were the ideas of Maoism, which also defended extra-legal tactics and preparation for military struggle, contrasting from the cautious perspectives of “Old Left”groups, the former which was embraced by those such as the BPP. [101] In the Chican@ community, called the Mexican-American community today, armed resistance was used. The Chican@ nationalist organization, the Brown Berets, composed of “lumpen” and working-class elements, proposed the Chicano Moratorium (1969-1971 at least) to raise awareness about the Vietnam War as a “civil rights issue,” also advocated for armed self-defense and armed struggle, as part of their anti-capitalist viewpoint, as necessary tools for liberation. [102]

Picture of eleven members of Brown Berets, the date of which is not known
Picture of eleven members of Brown Berets, the date of which is not known

While some argued against armed resistance, saying it was illegal and coercive, numerous groups still supported it. [103] In 1974, Ethel Shepton of the African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC), in Boston, argued against racial segregation, fighting for community control of schools in Black neighborhoods, along with armed self-defense against racist reactionaries, the right of “Black children to go to any school,” and the demand that the government “break up the fascist gangs.” [104] As years passed, gun control was cited as part of a “fascist offensive” to win allies of the proletariat to the “side of capitalism” while Robert, in 1977, declared that Mao Zedong was a “invigorator of rebellion and revolutionary thought,” saluting the victories of China, not surprisingly. [105] The same year, one group argued that they actively supported the right of White and Black working-class peoples, specifically those who were Black, to “defend themselves with arms against attack and lynching” with organization of armed self-defense in Black communities as “an important aspect of our leadership in the oppressed Nation.” [106]

During the later 1970s, one slogan began to be used more than ever: “Death to the Klan” as the KKK expanded throughout the US in groups like the “Invisible Empire.” In 1979, the left-wing Communist Workers’ Party (CWP), an offshoot of the PLP, a communist group, pushed forward “militant, anti-racist opposition to the Klan” by organizing within existing textile unions and against racism in the community as a whole, with positive results. [107] Of course, the Klan would not stand for this, doing what they could to stop the activism. As the CWP became more militant and organized a march on November 3, 1979, to counter the racist KKK, the Klan responded in force, with local Neo-Nazis, accompanied by FBI and police informants, arriving at the protest, taking “sidearms and rifles out of the trunk,” opening fire on participants, killing five in all, and likely wounding of many others, in what some called the “Greensboro Massacre.” [108] In the aftermath of this, the community was confused but also horrified, with the police nowhere to be on the scene and the leadership of the CWP being heavily criticized by established politicians and other radicals even as the lesson from the experience led to “better methods of anti-Klan organizing.”

The CWP was not the only group organizing against the Klan. In Northern Mississippi, the United League organized the masses, engaging in armed self-defense and taking precautions against Klan threats, along with similar anti-Klan and anti-Neo Nazi protests across the country. [109] As for the CWP, the more restrictions were put on them but this didn’t stop them. In January 1980, charges against nine people who transported weapons to the funeral march for the five killed during the Greensboro Massacre was dismissed, which some called a “victory for the Communist Workers Party and the masses in the struggle for right to armed self-defense” even as all confiscated weapons were ordered destroyed. [110] This victory allowed the CWP to continue to rally the people for nonviolent demonstrations even as they fought for the right of the masses to engage in armed self-defense, going against politicians like Ted Kennedy who supported gun control laws. [111] In 1981, one publication noted that the Klan was dedicated to engaging in “armed suppression of the workers’ movement and all progressive political movements” meaning that such reactionary terror cannot be stopped by being unarmed, but that “common sense tells us that armed self-defense is the only protection that the masses have against the reactionaries’ terror,” which liberals reject, claiming that “the masses are not prepared to accept the necessity of armed self-defense.” [112] In the same year, other measures were afoot. After the attempted assassination on Ronald Reagan in March, the news media pushed for gun control, as part of “”anti-crime” hysteria” which some say was a way to justify more authoritarianism, a bigger police apparatus, and turning the U.S. “into one big convict camp for forced labor, a chain gang working for the profits of the monopolies.” [113]

Handbill for Nov. 3 march by the CWP in Greensboro, NC
Handbill for Nov. 3 march by the CWP in Greensboro, NC

Despite criticisms of groups like the CWP, the chant of “Death to the Klan” became a national rallying cry. This was especially the case when the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee (JBAKC), originally emerging out of struggle by Puerto Rican and Black prisoners in New York, published a newsletter titled called Death to the Klan. [114] The organization was deeply rooted in the Black liberation struggle and Arab liberation struggles in Asia. [114] One lesson that was clear, it seemed, from the rhetoric of the CWP and its predecessors, along with grassroots organizing in Dallas, Texas, was a clear need for “synthesis between community defense and mass organizing” with self-defense as an imperative for people of color. By the mid-1980s, JBAKC had trouble articulating a “mass self-defense strategy” as they tried to get rid of racist graffiti, but were beat back by a racist skinhead gang in 1985 who were armed with shields and weapons. [115] As a result, some anti-racist skinheads organized armed self-defense and openly organized against those spreading hate and violence, including creation of a self-defense strategy with confrontations with racist often ending peacefully, without bullets being fired except in a few occasions. [116]

Undoubtedly armed self-defense continued as a practice by some individuals. One example of this was during the “Rodney King riots” in Los Angeles, in 1992, Korean shopkeepers had armed themselves, with Black “rioters” and Koreans portrayed negatively by the media, which diverted attention away from “a long tradition of racial violence,” with tensions among people of color “woven into U.S. history for the past 500 years.” [117] There is more on the history of armed self-defense, gun control, and armed resistance after 1992 but this was often engaged in by White individuals with not as much emphasis on actions by people of color.

Conclusion

In the original version of this article I was aiming to write about the history of armed resistance and gun control as the first section, followed by my views on the subject as the second section, reinforced by what I had said above. However, with over 117 footnotes and thousands upon thousands of words (over 8,600 not including footnotes), and with such a rich history, it seemed best to split this article into a two-part series. Even with this, there is no doubt that I did not cover all the history on this subject, so no one needs to get on my case about that in any way whatsoever. It is worth saying that anyone, on either side of the debate over guns in US society should recognize the clear history in this article to inform their viewpoint so they don’t laugh off the other side as ignorant fools while ignoring the reality which is right in front of their noses. As always, I look forward to your comments on this important subject.

Notes

[1] Other tweets of mine on the subject include: criticizing CodePink for implicitly rejecting armed self-defense, saying that calling for nonviolence at the upcoming women’s march doesn’t make sense, that liberals don’t care about safety of people of color because if they did they would call for armed self-defense, that armed self-defense shouldn’t be led by men, that these anti-fascists have the right idea, Korryn Gaines in Baltimore County has a right to armed self-defense, talking about armed self-defense in the Black community, challenging Hands Up United to endorse armed self-defense, asking if Muslims should arm themselves for self-defense, and so on.

[2] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[3] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[4] Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[5] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[6] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[7] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encylcopedia,” Soviet History, Vol. 1, no. 1, p. 11, 13.

[8] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[11] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encylcopedia,” p. 17.

[12] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[13] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[14] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[15] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[16] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[17] Ibid; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[18] Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017, Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017.

[19] LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” p. 21; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[20] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[21] Candice Lanier, “MLK’s Arsenal & The Racist Roots of Gun Control in the U.S.,” RedState, January 17, 2013; January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017.

[22] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[23] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017; Stephen A. Nuňo, “Gun control is people control, with racist implications,” NBC Latino, July 24, 2012; accessed January 16, 2017; LeftistCritic, “Annotating a Section of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” p. 22-24. The rhetoric in favor of such armed self-defense was often masculinist in nature.

[24] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017. Everitt heads the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). He goes on to talk about Nat Turner’s rebellion, the Colfax Massacre, and numerous other instances to disprove the gun control is racist idea.

[25] Ehab Zahriyeh, “For some blacks, gun control raises echoes of segregated past,” Al Jazeera America, September 1, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[26] David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017; Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[27] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[28] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[29] Nicholas Johnson, “Negroes and the Gun: The early NAACP championed armed self-defense,” Washington Post, January 30, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017. This whole paragraph comes from a summary of this source.

[30] Noted in old issues of the NAACP’s The Crisis.

[31] David B. Kopel, “The Klan’s Favorite Law: Gun control in the postwar South,” Reason, February 15, 2005; accessed January 16, 2017.

[32] Niger Innis, “The Long, Racist History of Gun Control,” The Blaze, May 2, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[33] Stephen A. Nuňo, “Gun control is people control, with racist implications,” NBC Latino, July 24, 2012; accessed January 16, 2017.

[34] David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control.

[35] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[36] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Also see the Federal Firearms Act of 1938 which was also reportedly drafted by the NRA.

[37] Paul Elitzik, “The CPUSA and Black Workers in the 1950s,” Class Struggle, No. 9, Spring 1978, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[38] Carl Davidson, Chapter 7: Revolutionary Upsurge, part of the book, “In Defense of the Right to Self-Determination,” 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[39] Ibid.

[40] “Glossary of People: Ro,” see the entry for “Robeson, Paul Leroy (1898-1976),” Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[41] Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017. There are a number of articles also worth reading on the subject: “Nonviolent Philosophy and Self Defense” (Library of Congress), “The Important Role of Armed Resistance in the Black Civil Rights Movement” (AlterNet), and “Gun Control and the Disarming of the Black Community,” (The Root).

[42] Carl Davidson, Chapter 10: The Civil Rights Movement, part of the book, “In Defense of the Right to Self-Determination,” 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[43] Noted by examining the members and history of the Black Armed Guard in Monroe, North Carolina.

[44] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Sylvia Shin Huey Chong, The Oriental Obscene: Violence and Racial Fantasies in the Vietnam Era (London: Duke University Press, 2012), 315].

[45] PBS, “Independent Lens: Negroes with guns: Rob Williams and Black Power,” accessed January 17, 2017.

[46] This reality should surprise no one and it shows that both Mable and Robert were involved in the struggle for black freedom.

[47] Seems evident from the fact that attacks in the region were reduced.

[48] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[49] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[50] Davarian L. Baldwin, “The Civil Rights Movement,” The New York Public Library, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[51] Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016.

[52] “On the Black Panther Party,” Speech at the Second National Conference
of the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA — Fall 1984, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017.

[53] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control. The conclusion that women were arming themselves is not in and of itself out of the question.

[54] Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Jim Dann and Hari Dillion, CHAPTER 3: RETREAT FROM THE BLACK LIBERATION MOVEMENT, part of “The Five Retreats: A History of the Failure of the Progressive Labor Party,” 1977, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017; “Bob Moses also said that“I don’t know if anyone in Mississippi preached to local Negroes that they shouldn’t defend themselves.””

[58] Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Charles E. Cobb, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed,” Washington Post, July 28, 2014; accessed January 16, 2017; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[61] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[62] “Hail the Formation of the Black Revolutionary Party,” The Black Revolutionary, Vol. 1, No. 1, May 1971, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[63]  Donald Parkinson, “Armed self-defense: the socialist way of fighting the far-right,” Communist League of Tampa, November 13, 2016; accessed January 17, 2016. Also noted in a publication of the Freedom Archives, Robert and Mabel Williams Resource Guide which is cited in another article of this series.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Ibid; Malik Miah, “African-American Self-Defense,” Against the Current, January/February 2015; accessed January 16, 2017.

[66] Jake Rosen, “War on SNCC: Turning Point for Freedom Fighters,” Progressive Labor, Vol. III. No. 2 February 1964, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[67] Progressive Labor Movement, “Statement of Principles and Strategic Concepts,” Marxist-Leninist Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 2, no date [1964], Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[68] Pili Michael L. Humphrey, Chairman of the Afro-American Commission Central Committee of the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L), “Commentary: Revolution and Black Liberation in the 1980’s,” Unity, Vol. 3, No. 9, April 25-May 8, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Progressive Labor Editorial Comment: Malcolm X and Black Nationalism,” Progressive Labor Vol. III, No. 5, May 1964, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[69] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[70] David Love, “Is it Time for Black People to Reconsider a Black Nation Within a Nation and Armed Self-Defense?,” Atlanta Black Star, July 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017. This masculinist appeal is also noted in Umoja’s We Will Shoot Back and Estes’s I Am A Man.

[71] Noted most prominently by Lance Hill in his 2006 book about the Deacons for Defense but is also noted elsewhere.

[72] Ladd Everitt, “Debunking the ‘gun control is racist’ smear, Waging Nonviolence, September 26, 2010; accessed January 16, 2017.

[73] “A statement from the National Committee of the Progressive Labor Party: Army Occupies Strategic Hamlet of Watts,” Challenge, Vol. II, No. 6 August 24, 1965, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[74] Davarian L. Baldwin, “The Civil Rights Movement,” The New York Public Library, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[75] Venceremos, “Against Revisionism: In Defense of the Black Panther Party, 1966-1970,” September 1971, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[76] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[79] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Revolutionary Communist League (Marxist-Leninist-Mao Tse Tung Thought), “History of the Congress of Afrikan People,” Unity and Struggle, Vol. V, No. 6, June 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[80] “On the Black Panther Party,” Speech at the Second National Conference
of the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA — Fall 1984, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[81] Huey Newton, “In Defense of Self-Defense: Executive Mandate Number One,” The Black Panther, 2 June 1967.

[82] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[83] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Edward Wyckoff Williams, “Fear of a Black Gun Owner,” The Root, January 23, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[84] Adam Winkler, “Gun Control is “racist”?, The New Republic, February 4, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017. Ends up advocating for gun control; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “MLK and His Guns,” Huffington Post, January 17, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; David Babat, “The discriminatory history of gun control,” Senior Honors Projects, Paper 140; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017; Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[85] Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[86] David Love, “Is it Time for Black People to Reconsider a Black Nation Within a Nation and Armed Self-Defense?,” Atlanta Black Star, July 17, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[87] There have been numerous articles about Emory Douglas in publications across the web, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

[88] Cleveland Draft Resistance Union, “Johnson Quits,” 1968, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; “National Elections and the Revolutionary Movement: George McGovern – Friend or Foe?,” Pamoja Venceremos, Volume 2, Issue 14, July 21-August 4, 1972, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017. McGovern is also criticized for his continued support of Israeli Zionism and US imperialism.

[89] National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, “Introduction to the Final Report of the Commission,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 2. Other documents submitted to the commission of note “crimes of violence” and “mass media and violence.”

[90] Ibid, 3.

[91] Ibid, 4-5, 8.

[92] Ibid, 11-12.

[93] Ramsey Clark, “Selections from Crime In America,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 13-14, 18.

[94] Clark, 21; Edward C. Banfield, “How Many, and Who Should Be At Liberty?,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 31. Clark also said that “mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, widespread property crime…police brutality and criminal syndicates” are also factors. He also argued that there is “a political element in every large scale riot.”

[95] Jerome H. Skolnick, “Selections from the Politics of Protest,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 47-48, 63-64.

[96] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017; Adam Winkler, “Is Gun Control Racist?,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2011; accessed January 16, 2017.

[97] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Gun Control,” The Atlantic, September 2011; accessed January 16, 2017; Bill Blum, “There’s Nothing Racist About Gun Control … Anymore,” Truthdig, January 29, 2013; accessed January 16, 2017.

[98] Jane Costen, “The (Really, Really) Racist History of Gun Control,” MTV News, June 30, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[99] Carl Davidson, “Whither the Weatherman,” Guardian, December 26, 1970, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[100] “The Franklin group: The Military Strategy for the United States: Protracted Urban War (A Draft),” Red Papers 4, 1972, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[101] Max Elbaum, “Maoism in the United States,” Encyclopedia of the American Left, Second Edition, 1998, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[102] The League of Revolutionary Struggle (Marxist-Leninist), “Chapter 3: The struggle of the Chicano people,” part of “The Struggle for Chicano Liberation,” Forward, No, 2, August 1979, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Chicano Liberation and Proletarian Revolution,” Revolutionary Cause, Vol. 1, No. 2, January 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017. The Brown Berets were also joined by the Black Berets.

[103] Ernest Van Den Haag, “Political Violence,” Civil Disorder and Violence: Essays on Causes and Cures (ed. Henry M. Clar, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1972), p. 72, 74.

[104] “Commentary on the Greensboro shooting: The Klan: henchmen of imperialism,” Unity, Vol. 2, No. 23, November 16-29, 1979, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[105] “Robert Williams Speaks in Chicago: ‘Chairman Mao Was Our Brother’ Says Black Liberation Fighter,” The Call, Vol. 6, No. 36, September 19, 1977, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; Committee for Scientific Socialism (M-L), “Two Lines on Revolutionary Practice: Science Versus Spontaneity,” Forward! no. 1, June 1976, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017.

[106] Marxist-Leninist Organizing Committee, “RESOLUTION ON THE BLACK NATIONAL QUESTION,” part of “Documents of the First Congress of the MLOC – Resolutions,” Class Against Class, No. 10, January 1978, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[107] Alexander Reid Ross, ““Death to the Klan” and Armed Antifascist Community Defense in the US,” It’s Going Down, July 26, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[108] Ibid.

[109] “500 attend busing forum in N.Y.,” The Guardian, December 25, 1974, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[110] “Turn the Country Upside Down to Avenge the CWP 5!: Victory for Right to Armed Self-Defense,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 2, January 21, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Chattanooga! 9 Pigs Fall to People’s Armed Defense,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 28, August 4-10, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[111] Cynthia Lai, “The Role of Practice in the Marxist Theory of Knowledge,” The 80’s, Vol. II, No 1, January-February 1981, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017; ““C”PML Works with Cops in Feb 2nd Demo: Calling for “Peaceful Transition to Socialism,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 6, February 23, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017; “Miami Conference: U.S. People Demand New Leadership For The 80’s,” Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 21, June 16, 1980, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[112] Mark Evans, “For a Revolutionary Struggle Against Fascism,” Workers Herald, Vol. 1, No. 3, January 1981, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 17, 2017.

[113] “On the Attempted Assassination of Reagan by a Nazi: The Chickens Come Home to Roost,” The Workers’ Advocate, Vol. 11, No. 5, April 20, 1981, Marxist Internet Archive; accessed January 16, 2017.

[114] Alexander Reid Ross, ““Death to the Klan” and Armed Antifascist Community Defense in the US,” It’s Going Down, July 26, 2016; accessed January 16, 2017.

[115] Ibid.

[116] Ibid. Organized anti-racist gangs included the Red and Anarchist SkinHeads (RASH) and the SkinHeads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARPs), along with the non-skinhead CHD (Coalition for Human Dignity) group.

[117] Newsweek Staff, “They Armed in Self-Defense,” May 17, 1992; accessed January 16, 2017.

David Swanson, the USSR, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact

screenshot_2017-01-06-01-59-55-1
A screenshot from a 1949 animated Soviet propaganda film by Victor Gromov, titled “Mr. Wolf,” focusing on a pacifist capitalist, like Andrew Carnegie perhaps, who, fed up with the horrible nature of war, moves to an “island of peace.” But when he finds oil, he gets greedy, dropping his belief in pacifism, demands control of it, reveals his secret stash of arms, and seizes control of the oil with the help of (presumably) the US Navy. The message of greedy capitalists and duplicitous pacifists is very clear while some are flummoxed.

As Trump promises to increase military spending, including 350 more ships for the Navy (likely costing over $126 billion dollars), strengthening the murderous US empire, which builds off the brashly imperialist foreign policy of the Obama administration, it is important to recall our history. This article will first outline the narrative by David Swanson, a former press secretary for bourgeois Democratic “peace” politician, Dennis Kucinich, during his presidential candidacy, and peace activist, on the history of how the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 came into fruition, summarizing his book to the best of my ability, there will be a counterpoint to his history, and finally it will end with my conclusion on where to go from here.

David Swanson’s narrative of what happened

David Swanson’s book is a good place to start. While he is not radical, and arguably a bourgeois pacifist, he does help tell this story. As he tells it, the peace movement in the 1920s, depending on new female voters, united around the idea of war outlawry, previously split by the League of Nations, seen as a glorious and noble cause. [1] This movement was strengthened by outrage at the horrible effects of WWI, despite the manipulation of emotions, by Woodrow Wilson’s “propaganda machinery,” in the form of the Committee of Public Information, to influence Americans to support war. [2] Such manipulation was preceded by Wilson winning election in 1916, with slogans like “he kept us out of the war,” but turning around and involving the US in WWI in April 1917. Many in the US, disillusioned with promises of war, distrusted European peace efforts, as the US membership in the League of Nations and World Court did not materialize, along with other failed negotiations in the 1920s, the peace movement grew. [3] Leading intellectuals, robber-barons, like Andrew Carnegie who founded the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and politicians, like Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, promoted peace. At the same time, “peace societies” were created in the US, along with a litany of other pro-peace organizations, such as the American Friends Service Committee and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, some of which spread  “a barrage of peace propaganda.” [4]

There are number of individuals who specifically pushed for “war outlawry” or the abolishment of war. Swanson cites 22 individuals. [5] One of these individuals was Salmon Oliver Levinson, a Yale graduate and Chicago lawyer who led the American Committee for the Outlawry of War, which tried to make war illegal and recognized as an institution. [6] Others, such as Kirby Page and temperance activist Carrie Chapman Catt, also pushed for war outlawry, allied with other forces, like the Progressive Party which represented interests of farmers, petty urban bourgeoisie, and trade unions, collapsing after the 1924 election, along with public opinion in favor of prohibiting war. [7] Pro-peace clubs and organizations sprung up by the hundreds, with thousands of members, eliminating the divides in the past between more wealthy organizations, like the Carnegie Endowment and the American Foundation for Peace, and more radical ones pushing for disarmament and opposing militarism. [8] The former profited from war with hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonds from the U.S. Steel Corporation. However, it is worth pointing out that Outlawrists, tapping into widespread skepticism of collective defense agreements, “favored the rule of the written word” to prevent war, creating a world court which had international jurisdiction, but were muddled when they didn’t always consider the distinction between “aggressive” and “defensive war.” [9] Beyond this, such a push for outlawing war was an effort to change people’s conceptions of what they consider “morally acceptable,” hoping that society could be organized for peace, but not always taking into account that some engage in statements of desire about ending war and peaceful resolution rather than the reality. [10]

From then on, there was a push for Western diplomats to negotiate what became the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Illegal diplomacy by pro-peace US citizens, led to debate among French, German, and British diplomats about being involved in the treaty, boosted by supportive writings in The New Republic, New York Times, and Foreign Affairs, along with sympathetic congressmembers like socially conservative William Borah and Republican Robert LaFollette, among others. [11] Aristide Briand, a long-time prime minister, advocate of “personal diplomacy,” and breaker of a railroaders strike, made the first move, with a Minnesota Republican, Secretary of State Frank Kellogg, no active advocate of peace, forced into action even as he cursed pacifists privately. [12] Obviously in an effort to reinforce US imperialism, Kellogg was willing to threaten war to enforce the Monroe Doctrine in the Americas, derided by the new Soviet government, but was pushed into action by a strong peace movement, negotiating a treaty with the French secretly, making it multilateral even though Briand did not want this to happen originally. [13] Some of the French showed their true colors, like Paul Claudel, who said that outlawing war was sentimental and would please “cranks,” Bolsheviks and socialists, proposing a joint declaration of principles but Kellogg stuck by his demand for a treaty, later coming over to public negotiations of the treaty as the US and British allowed their respective imperialisms to fall under the idea of “self-defense” and not be covered by the treaty. [14] The Kellogg-Briand Pact, also called the Pact of Paris, was signed in Paris in 1928, picketed by feminists saying that an equal rights treaty should be proposed and anti-imperialists who said that US imperialism would continue, and survived the US Senate (votes in favor 85-1), despite broad questioning of its effectiveness, then entering the canons of international law in July 1929. [15]

Swanson continues by saying that the pact’s ideas were influential. He says that it inspired the UN’s principles in 1945 and International Criminal Court, claiming the pact was the “first U.S. recognition of the Soviet Union’s existence.” [16] He also says that Henry Stimson tried to stop the USSR and nationalist China from supposedly going to the “brink of war.” He doesn’t note that this was part of a “Sino-Soviet conflict over the Manchurian railway line,” which was settled with a protocol that “affirmed the original status of the railroad as a joint enterprise” and Soviet victory. At the time, Persia (Iran) defended the USSR rhetorically when it took defensive measures against nationalist China in the 1929 spat. [17] Swanson also points out Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, and Germany invading Poland on Sept. 1, 1939 and the Soviets on Sept. 17, 1939 as violations of the pact. Not surprisingly, Swanson does not say that this intervention was in accordance with the secret Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact since the Soviets felt that the Polish could no longer defend themselves because of the collapse of their state after a Nazi attack, and the Soviets were welcomed by the Polish people as “true liberators.” Swanson goes on to say that the treaty was not ordinary, but meant to outlaw war, with the reality that the US quickly violated the pact, with peace structures not stopping the coming war. Some supported Outlawry at the time (Stimson) but opposed it later, and others, such as, a Wall Street lawyer named William Chanler, a friend of Stimson, used it as a basis for criminal trials of the Germans and Japanese for war crimes at Nuremberg and the UN Charter as a whole. [18] Eventually, Kellogg was given a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the treaty even as he didn’t stop advocating for US imperial aggression.

Before ending the section on Swanson’s narrative, it worth noting how taken in he is about this story. He thinks war outlawry be revived and that we should have a “Kellogg-Briand Day” on August 27 every year, celebrating a “step toward peace” but war’s abolishment or end. [19] He goes on to say that his book, dispelling the well-kept secret that war is illegal, continues the campaign for outlawry, which includes pushing countries to comply with the pact, and says that a public referendum on war is an intriguing idea. [20] At the end of his book, he outlines numerous proposals for reducing the US war machine, [21] and says that his self-published book, where he had complete editorial control, is meant to help people learn about the Kellogg-Briand Pact and study peace activism that got us to Outlawry. [22]

What Swanson missed

Another screenshot from the Soviet animated film "Mr. Wolf."
Another screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf.”

In his happy good lucky story of the road to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, Swanson glosses over a number of details, almost portraying the US imperialists as “peacemakers” in the process. As the Great Soviet Encyclopedia argued, the US tried to use the Paris Peace Conference, from 1919-1920, to marginalize the USSR, Harding’s administration, favoring monopolies, used the Washington Conference of 1921-1922 to force the UK to agree to equality between US and UK battle fleets, Coolidge’s administration was unfriendly to the USSR, and US warships helped bomb Nanking in 1927. [23] Additionally, Swanson’s book barely ever mentions the Soviets, usually only referring to them in passing except for one time when he notes that a delegate from the USSR,  Maxim Maimovich Litvinov, proposed to the League of Nations’s commission on disarmament in Nov. 1927 that there be the “immediate and total abolition of all armies, navies, and air forces; the sinking of all warships; the scrapping of all war material; and the demolition of all arms factories” but Western governments rejected this, and the French even voted to expand their navy. [24] He never expands on other Soviet policies in favor of peace but has a very Western-centered approach, likely written with his audience of liberals and progressives in mind who scowl at the Soviet Union.

There is another aspect of the process that Swanson barely talks about, if he even alludes to it: the interests of Western capitalist states who engaged in the pact. Kellogg himself wanted to desperately avoid the treaty, which was, as some writers put it, “the product of Realpolitik and cynical political calculations,” with the French seeing the pact as a possibility for a “defensive alliance aimed at Germany” while in the US, many believed that “the solution to the scourge of war lay in the universal renunciation of its practice.” [25] More specifically, while Briand’s offer for negotiations on a treaty to end war “thrilled pacifist-minded Americans,” it also served “France’s strategic needs,” a way to sideline the US “should France go to war” but Kellogg understood “what Briand was trying to accomplish and wanted nothing to do with the offer” and did not like Briand’s “bid to energize U.S. peace groups and thereby box in the Coolidge administration.” Beyond this, Kellogg agreed to talk with the French, engaging in a multilateral treaty outlawing war rather than a bilateral treaty, which supposedly “rendered it largely ineffective, more a toy handcuff than an iron manacle” and Briand was hardly in a position to argue against it. Paris served as “the site for the historic meeting to renounce war” and US Senators had few illusions about the treaty, knowing “it was the international equivalent of an air kiss,” voting the same day “to fund the construction of fifteen new warships.”

The US State Department admits this much in their write-up about the pact. They argue that the pact had “little effect in stopping the rising militarism of the 1930s or preventing World War II” but also note the movement that pushed for the peace pact. France was facing, they note, “continuing insecurity from its German neighbor and sought alliances to shore up its defenses,” but the US was less eager to enter into a bilateral peace pact, worrying that it “could be interpreted as a bilateral alliance and require the United States to intervene if France was ever threatened” so they suggested that it be multilateral, which aligned with war outlawry being “immensely popular in international public opinion.” The State Department history also says that the pact’s language “established the important point that only wars of aggression – not military acts of self-defense – would be covered under the pact,” resulting in many nations signing it, and the U.S. Senate ratifying the agreement after making “reservations to note that U.S. participation did not limit its right to self-defense or require it to act against signatories breaking the agreement.” The pact was first tested, argues this history, during the Mukden Incident which led to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, but the fact of a “worldwide depression and a limited desire to go to war to preserve China” led to no action from the League of Nations or the US. Later threats to the agreement “from fellow signatories Germany, Austria and Italy” made it clear there “was no way to enforce the pact or sanction those who broke it” with many ways around the terms, the pact not helping prevent WWII but very idealistic in the view of the State Department history.

In missing this aspect of the pact, Swanson, of course, did not mention the imperial nature of the pact itself. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia argued that the pact was originally used by the US and other imperialist powers as a “means of isolating the USSR” but that under “the pressure of public opinion they were forced to invite the USSR to subscribe to the pact.” [26] The Soviets adhered to the pact on August 29, 1928, details of which will be discussed later in this article. Such an action led to anger from Trotskyists who saw themselves as righteous in their “revolutionary” feelings, even though Leon Trotsky supported a continuation of the NEP, opposed measures to ensure the security of the Soviet state from opportunists and foreign enemies, and pushed the idea of “permanent revolution” while rejecting the more practical idea of “socialism in one country” proposed by Joseph Stalin, as noted in a previous post on this blog. The Trotskyists claimed that the signing of this pact marked a departure from a “revolutionary path,” strengthened “bourgeois illusions,” struck at Lenin’s work, and that Western powers are not interested in peace but wanted to check the “successful robber activities of the Nipponese competitor,” Japan. [27] While most of these statements take an unrealistic counter-revolutionary viewpoint, the last statement about Western powers is one the Soviets would actually agree with.

The Soviet government had a good reason for signing the pact regardless of what the counter-revolutionary Trotskyists said. While they would have, a few years before, possibly sneered at the effort as “bourgeois sentimentalism,” the USSR wanted to join the world community even as the initial invitations for the pact excluded the Soviets, leaving them to believe there was the tacit formation of an anti-Soviet bloc, but the French invited the Soviets to be signatories and they did so, with their affirmation of the pact showing a “Soviet desire for peace.” [28] Signing the pact was also a continuation of previous Soviet policy. Beyond what Swanson briefly mentioned, in the 1927 and 1928 disarmament conferences, Litvinov offered wide-sweeping proposals for disarmament, which was popular among the public, even when the USSR adhered to the pact, one newspaper, the Inprecor, argued that Britain, France, and capitalist satellites like Poland, were continuing preparation for war on the USSR. [29]

However, not everyone in the Soviet government wanted to ratify the pact. The People’s Commissar of the Soviet Union (1924-1930) Georgy Chicherin, opposed ratification, while Nikolai Bukharin (who supported NEP’s continuation and wanted socialism at a “snail’s pace”) and Litvinov supported it, arguing that it would allow Western powers to interfere in Soviet foreign affairs, the same reason he opposed the Soviets joining League of Nations. [30] His supporters pointed to British & French reservations about the pact, arguing that it would have no effect.

Despite this argument, the Soviets signed the pact, but mad they were not invited to signing ceremony [31], taking the position that “all international wars must be prohibited, in particular, wars with the aim of suppressing movements of national liberation,” along with prohibition of “intervention, blockade, military occupation of foreign territory, foreign ports” along with “severance of diplomatic relations” since this “contributes to…an atmosphere that favors the occurrence of war.” [32] The Soviet government as a whole took the position that signing the pact showed they were consistent advocates of peace, and believed that only a “universal and complete disarmament plan” could prevent armed conflicts, while admitting the pact would be a dead letter unless growth of arms was limited. Some, such as Evgeny A. Korovin, argued that the pact was a “serious blow to the system of the Anglo-French capitalist bloc” and that it weakened the League of Nations. [33] The Soviets also declared that the pact did not go far enough renouncing war by “failing to cover all methods of aggression,” saying that the fact that the pact didn’t have provisions for disarmament showed the “insincerity of bourgeois pacifism.” [34] Looking at articles 1 and 2 of the pact itself [35] shows their criticism to be valid, as it is very loosely worded, only condemning recourse to war internationally and renouncing it as form of national policy:

ARTICLE I: “The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.”

ARTICLE II: “The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.”

Additionally, the pact, unlike Soviet treaties of nonaggression which renounced war “completely, totally, and without qualification,” seemed to exclude warlike action and the right of self-defense from the pact’s operation, meaning that it, arguably, watered down and truncated the “concept of nonaggression.” [36] Later on, the Soviets would argue that a declared war or any “de facto military actions initiated by any state” should be considered a breach of the pact. [37]

More importantly, the pact inadvertently gave Soviet foreign policy a boost. As a result of the pact, the Soviets proposed their own security policy, inviting neighbors to bring the pact into force by themselves, with what was called the “Litvinov Protocol,” named after the Soviet diplomat, signed by the USSR, Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, later joined by Lithuania, Turkey, Persia, and Free City of Danzig, with Finland not as a signatory. [38] This showed that the USSR was a champion of the principles in the pact and an “active proponent of the idea of curbing the freedom of states to indulge in waging war in order to promote their interests.” This pact, signed in February 1929, represented the “spirit of the Pact of Paris,” while it renounced the use of force and recourse to warlike measures, and while it provided little security for the neighbors of the USSR, its intention was more important than its application. [39] Part of the text of the agreement is reprinted below:

“…[the following governments] being desirous of promoting the maintenance of peace between their respective countries and for this purpose of putting into force without delay, between the peoples of those countries, the Treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, signed at Paris on August 27, 1928, have decided to achieve this purpose by means of the present Protocol…

Article I. The Treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, signed at Paris on August 27, 1928…shall come into force between the Contracting Parties after the ratification of the said Treaty of Paris of 1928 by the competent legislative bodies of the respective Contracting Parties.
Article II. The entry into force in virtue of the present Protocol, of the Treaty of Paris of 1928 in reciprocal relations between the Parties to the present Protocol shall be valid independently of the entry into force of the Treaty of Paris of 1928…
Article IV. In order to give effect to Article I of the present Protocol, each of the High Contracting Parties, after ratification by its legislative bodies of the Treaty of Paris of 1928, shall immediately notify the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and all the other Parties to the present Protocol, through the diplomatic channel.”

This agreement, also called the Moscow Protocol or more formally the “Protocol for the Immediate Entry into Force of the Treaty of Paris of August 27, 1928, Regarding Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy,” was immediately effective unlike the prolonged Kellogg-Briand Pact, with the Soviet negotiated agreement entering into force many months before the latter pact, and helping to improve Soviet relations with Poland. [40] The Soviet pact also disapproved the views of Western capitalists that “Red Russia would [not] keep a pledge to disarm.” [41]

Later on, in 1933, the USSR concluded a convention on the definition of aggression with Afghanistan, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Persia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey, and the next day a similar convention with Czechoslovakia, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. [42] This agreement defined aggression as a “declaration of war, invasion, assault, naval blockade and support of armed bands” along with outlining false excuses and justifications for such aggression by capitalist states. [43] Over the years to come, as even noted by this anti-communist but partially fair account of Soviet foreign policy, the Soviets recognized the danger posed by the Nazis, trying to “restrain German militarism by building coalitions hostile to fascism,” adopting a policy of “cooperation with socialists and liberals against fascism, thus reversing its line of the early 1930s,” with the county joining the League of Nations in 1934, and Litvinov advocating “disarmament and collective security against fascist aggression.” Beyond this, the Soviets also, in 1935, made alliances with France and Czechoslovakia, and “from 1936 to 1939 it gave assistance to antifascists in the Spanish Civil War,” leading to Germany and Japan signing the “Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936” but the West did not want to “counter German provocative behavior,” and after France and Britain appeased “Hitler’s demands for Czechoslovak territory at Munich in 1938,” Stalin then abandoned his “efforts to forge a collective security agreement with the West” apparently.

After this, Stalin came to an “understanding with Germany,”replacing Litvinov with his confidante, Viacheslav Molotov as commissar of foreign affairs, with the Nazis and Soviets engaging in “intensive negotiations,” leading to the Nonaggression Pact of August 23, 1939, which “pledged absolute neutrality in the event one of the parties should become involved in war, while a secret protocol [that] partitioned Poland,” and soon thereafter the WWII began. Despite this, one cannot blame the Soviets for war, since felt they could not trust the Western powers to fight the Nazis by allying with them, and they did not want destruction of their country like happened during WWI. In later years, the Soviets pushed the UN for a new definition on aggression which encompassed viewpoints from across the Third World in 1953 and 1956. [44] After that point, when Khrushchev unfairly and traitorously denounced Stalin in his “secret speech” and cozied up more to the Western capitalists, revisionism took hold in the country, only to be uprooted by 1964, seemingly, when Leonid Brezhnev took power. All of these aspects will be covered in later articles about Soviet history.

The fact that Swanson did not address the Soviet perspective on the pact at all is not much of a surprise. While he is good-intentioned in writing about this subject and his book is a worthy history, he also is a bourgeois pacifist who does not talk about the role of capitalism, class relations, or imperialist struggle in bringing this agreement to fruition. I don’t wish to talk about that history in regards to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, as that would require a good amount of additional research on the subject. As a result, this article is just meant to criticize Swanson and bring a new perspective to light on this subject, leading to future discussion.

Concluding thoughts

Final screenshot from the Soviet animated film "Mr. Wolf" I'm using in this article.
Final screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf” I’m using in this article.

Some may say that it isn’t even worth reading the works of a bourgeois pacifist like David Swanson and that I’m giving him free press. While I can see where such a viewpoint is coming from, I also think it is unfair. It is worth reading other points of view in order to improve your own. There is no doubt that Swanson spent time and resources on writing his history, but his ideological viewpoint distorted his history so he did not, as a result, recognize the full reality. What I mean by this is that he is writing from a white, privileged, and Western perspective geared toward audiences in the United States. You could even add in that his perspective does not mention perspectives by women, not even white women, since only a smattering of the war outlawrists he cites are women. Additionally, where is a mention of race in this book? Doesn’t the Kellogg-Briand Pact effect people of color across the world? Also, a more robust analysis of European imperialisms and US imperialism would have improved the narrative to be more critical of established power structures. This agreement led to a sort of “capitalist peace” you could say.

The current Kellogg-Briand Pact, coupled with Articles 1 and 51 of the UN Charter, is a good tool to restrain the murderous empire. However, one must be wary of the demands of bourgeois pacifism in this regard, as such pacifism does not recognize the possibility of revolutionary wars for liberation and often says that people should not have the right to armed self-defense, instead just engaging in peaceful measures. This should be rejected wholesale. If Palestinians have the right to fire back rockets in response to never-ending Israeli bombing then blacks in the United States have the right to defend themselves with arms against bigots trying to harm them. To be realistic, there will only be peace once socialist revolutions sweep the world and remove the virus of capitalism because militarism is deeply tied to such a horrid economic system. Sure, we can support the idea of outlawing war. However, we should not think that it, even if connected with an international court and other instruments of international law, will bring justice in a way that prevents capitalist exploitation. This is especially the fact if such a push does not include a demand for strong enforcement mechanisms, something that the Kellogg-Briand Pact lacks, not even allowing for sanctions, as much as they can be destructive and an instrument of imperialist aggression, of countries that violate its provisions. [45]

Notes

[1] David Swanson, When the World Outlawed War (Charlottesville, VA, 2011), p. 6, 11-12.

[2] Swanson, 11-15, 19-20. Such propaganda stayed in people’s minds before Wilson saw public opinion as “something to use, rather than avoid,” Swanson argues.

[3] Ibid, 16-17.

[4] Ibid, 17-18. The organization that paid for this was one group called the National Council for Prevention of War.

[5] War Outlawrists that Swanson cites: John Dewey, Robert Farrell, Thomas Hall Shastid, Sherwood Eddy, Robert Farrell, Murray Butler, James Thomson Shotwell, Andrew Carnegie, Salmon Oliver Levinson, John Chalmers Vinson, John E. Stoner, Kirby Page, Charles Clayton Morrison, Arthur Capper of Kansas, William Borah, Warren G. Harding, John Haynes Holmes, Raymond Robins, Frances Keller, Calvin Coolidge, James Brown Scott, and Carrie Chapman Catt.

[6] Swanson, 24-27, 30-33.

[7] Ibid, 27-28, 60-69, 111-114; LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 38.

[8] Ibid, 20-23, 73-74.

[9] Ibid, 34-37, 41-42. The idea of such enforcement was a court of law, with enforcement of rulings relying on good faith of nations, not military action, an economic blockade or sanctions, with the court as a form of “dispute resolution.”

[10] Ibid, 37-40, 43-47.

[11] Ibid, 49-59, 75-82, 90-91, 100-106.

[12] Ibid, 5, 71-72, 84-85, 92-99.

[13] Ibid, 85-89, 107-110.

[14] Ibid, p. 111-123.

[15] Swanson, 6, 125, 131-134, 136-142.

[16] Ibid, 144-146; Kellogg said that the pact did not mean the US recognized the USSR, but the Soviets hoped the pact would be a way to gain rapprochement (American Foreign Relations Since 1600: A Guide to the Literature, Vol. 1 (ed. Robert L. Beisner and Kurt W. Hanson, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003), 851.

[17] Also see “The Sino-Soviet Border Conflict, 1969: U.S. Reactions and Diplomatic Maneuvers” published on the National Security Archive’s website in 2001.

[18] Swanson, 6, 146-155. As Chen Tiqiang argues, “Article 1 of the Anti-War Pact of Paris concluded on August 27, 1928, stipulates that the signatory countries to the pact “renounce…recourse to war as an instrument of national policy.” The Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East; pronounced on November 12, 1948, pointed out that a war in violation of the Paris pact is illegal by international law and that “those who plan and wage such a war with its inevitable and terrible consequences are committing a crime in doing so.” Thus, it is clear that wars of aggression had already been prohibited by international law before Japan launched its war of aggression. The Japanese Government, therefore, had launched its war of aggression against China wittingly and deliberately with full knowledge of its legal significance” (Chen Tiqiang, “Conclusions Confirmed by History,” Beijing Review, Aug. 30, 1982, vol. 25, no. 35, p. 27). Another writer notes that “in the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact (or Pact of Paris), the States Parties solemnly declared “that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.” The Pact did not, however, specify criminal liability either for States or for individuals in the event of a violation of the Pact; whether the norm set forth in the Pact reflected a general rule of international law or one binding solely upon those States that had ratified the Pact was uncertain. As such, after the outbreak of World War II, many believed that no “international agreement criminalising wars of aggression was in force in 1939, and therefore, on the basis of the nullum crimen sine lege principle, the Allies were not legally entitled to prosecute the top Nazi leaders for aggression” but at the San Francisco conference in April 1945 they asserted that the original intent of the Kellogg-Briand Pact requires trying Nazis and Japanese fascists as war criminals (Sean D. Murphy, “The Crime of Aggression at the ICC,” Public Law and Legal Theory Paper No. 2012-50, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-50, 2012, p. 3-4). It is worth noting that WWII commenced even with the pact in place, but that the pact influenced Japan’s pacifist constitution.

[19] Swanson, 6-8.

[20] Ibid, 5, 9-10, 49, 163-165.

[21] Other peaceful proposals include simple disarmament, disentangling ourselves from alliances that cause us to go to war like NATO, pressure those in power, enacting numerous strategies and create a holiday for the pact on August 27, that war is good for nothing (p. 165-167, 169). His ideas, outlined in p. 166 to 167 include: (1) cutting half of a trillion dollars out of the national security budget, half into tax cuts for everyone, half into useful social spending; (2) bring the National Guard back home and de-federalize it; (3) ban redeployment of personnel suffering from PTSD; (4) ban no-bid military contracts; (5) restore constitutional war powers to Congress; (6) have a public referendum before any war; (7) close foreign bases; (8) ban weapons from space; (9) ban extralegal prisons; (10) ban “kangaroo courts” outside the US justice system; (11) restore habeas corpus; (12) ban use of mercenaries; (13) limit military spending; (14) ban secret operations, agencies, and budgets; (15) ban drone strikes; (16) forbid transfer of student info. to military recruiters without permission; (17) comply with Kellogg-Briand Pact; (18) reform or replace the UN; (19) join the ICC and make it independent of the UN; (20) disarm.

[22] Swanson, 157-162, 170-171.

[23] LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 35, p. 37-39.

[24] Swanson, 106.

[25] James M. Lindsay, “TWE Remembers: The Kellogg-Briand Pact,” Council on Foreign Relations, August 27, 2011.

[26] LeftistCritic, “Annotating A Section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 39.

[27] Max Shachtman, “War, Kellogg Pact and the Soviet Union,” March 1929, The Militant, Vol. II No. 5, 1 March 1929, pp. 1 & 4; Jack Weber, “March of Events,” July 13 1935, New Militant, Vol. I No. 29, 13 July 1935, p. 3; Sam Gordon, New Developments in Far East: Western Imperialists Register Protests as Japs Hold on to Booty, February 1932, The Militant, Vol. V No. 6 (Whole No. 102), 6 February 1932, p. 1.

[28] Alastair Kocho-Williams, Russia’s International Relations in the Twentieth Century (New York: Routledge, 2013), 52; Akira Iriye, The New Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations: The Globalizing of America, 1913-1945, Vol. 3 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 84-85, 106.  Some say that the USSR remained “somewhat isolated diplomatically” by the West at least, but this is only one opinion on the matter. It is also worth noting that the provisions of the Kellogg-Briand Pact also applied to Soviet relations with Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania (Jan F. Triska and Robert M. Slusser, The Theory, Law, and Policy of Soviet Treaties (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1962), 250-251).

[29] J.L. Black, Canada in the Soviet Mirror: Ideology and Perception in Soviet Foreign Affairs, 1917-1991 (Canada: Carleton University Press, 1998), 66. The Comintern didn’t take Litvinov’s moves them seriously and got ready in case of invasion.

[30] Jan F. Triska and Robert M. Slusser, The Theory, Law, and Policy of Soviet Treaties (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1962), 259.

[31] On August 5, 1928, Chicherin argued that “the exclusion of the Soviet government from these negotiations leads us…to the assumption that among the real objectives of the initiators of this pact there obviously was and is an endeavor to make of this pact a weapon for isolating and fighting the Soviet Union. The negotiations regarding the conclusion of the Kellogg Pact was obviously an integral part of the policy of encircling the Soviet Union, which at present occupies the central point of the international relations of the whole world” (Xenia Joukoff Eudin and Harold Henry Fisher, Soviet Russia and the West, 1920-1927: A Documentary Survey (Sanford, CA: Sanford University Press, 1957), 352).

[32] Triska and Slusser, 259.

[33] Triska and Slusser, 260.

[34] Triska and Slusser, 262. On the subject of the Litvinov Protocol also see Rudolf Bernhardt, Use of Force · War and Neutrality Peace Treaties (N-Z) (New York: North Holland Publishing Company, 1982), 36.

[35] Documents about it here on the Avalon Project’s website.

[36] Triska and Slusser, 258.

[37] International Law and International Security: Military and Political Dimensions (ed. Paul B. Stephan and Boris Mikhaĭlovich Klimenko, London: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1991), 9, 296.

[38] George Ginsburgs, Moscow’s Road to Nuremberg: The Soviet Background to the Trial (London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1996), 4.

[39] Richard C. Hall, Consumed by War: European Conflict in the 20th Century (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2010), 97; Miron Rezun, The Soviet Union and the Iran: Soviet Policy in Iran from the Beginnings of the Pahlavi Dynasty until the Soviet Invasion of 1941 (Geneva: Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales, 1981), 148, 154, 247; Marcel Mitrasca, Moldova: A Romanian Province Under Russian Rule : Diplomatic History from the archives of the Great Powers (New York: Algora Publishing, 2002), 8, 124, 330, 372, 377.

[40] KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885; David A. Kaplow, “Nuclear Kellogg-Briand Pact: Proposing a Treaty for the Renunciation of Nuclear Wars as an Instrument of National Policy,” Georgetown University Law Center, p. 139; “When the Soviet Union Entered World Politics” ebook, “Diplomatic Isolation and the Beginnings of Stalinism” chapter, UC Press.

[41] Time Magazine, “RUSSIA: Litvinov’s Protocol,”KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885.

[42] KAZIMIERZ GRZYBOWSKI, “INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS FROM THE SOVIET POINT OF VIEW,” p. 885.

[43] Triska and Slusser, 262-263.

[44] Ibid.

[45] The lack of such provisions in the Kellogg-Briand Pact is not a surprise because Western capitalist states would have never stood for strong enforcement, rejecting it in an effort to defend their own empires.